Monday, July 23, 2018

Oh that word

I recently had a story rejected for an anthology because it used the N word.  Yesterday, I revisited Blazing Saddles  which uses the N word ten times in the first ten minutes.  That's about the pace my story used it.

This word is problematic.  It's a word. And it's a word used a lot back in the days of old.  A hell of a lot. But, using it today is not looked kindly upon.  There have been many efforts to get libraries to ban Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain because the word is in there. Twain was no racist.  He used the word because that's how folks talked in the time period.

My story--same deal.  It has characters on a Pullman car and most of them were black.  A white customer was using the term liberally and the editor of my story wanted nothing to do with the concept.  I can't really blame him.  It would likely stir up more trouble than it was worth.  Still, I hate being historically accurate and shit-canned [oh my that's another word] for it. Although I understand it, I don't entirely like it.  Since I edit as well as write, I can't say for certain what I'd do with a N word laced story. Sigh. And I never used the word here.


  1. I remember a few years ago, a commentator used the word "niggardly" to refer to President Obama. They were using the word according to its dictionary definition, which is penny-pinching or stingy. Of course, that commentator was given no end of trouble about the word, especially in reference to a black president.

    I mention it as an example of just how charged your "n-word" is. Especially since "niggardly" and the other n-word really aren't related except that they sound alike.

    This is a hard one, because it's a word that stirs up strong emotions in people. I know I'd have a difficult time accepting a story that used it for just that reason, even if it is historically accurate. I'd want to know there was a really compelling reason for the word in the story (besides "just" authenticity) and I'd probably want to see the user of the word meet some kind of comeuppance.

    Definitely good food for thought.

  2. It is a tough call. I'd probably only use it/or accept a story with it in it if it were really necessary/added to the story in an important way.

    It could also be used to illustrate how racist someone is at the time, etc. It would be a tough one for sure, however.