A pejorative word or phrase, slur, or derogatory term is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative or a disrespectful connotation, a low opinion, or a lack of respect toward someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others or may be originally pejorative but later adopt a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.
Pejoration and melioration edit
In historical linguistics, the process of an inoffensive word becoming pejorative is a form of semantic drift known as pejoration. An example of pejoration is the shift in meaning of the word silly from meaning that a person was happy and fortunate to meaning that they are foolish and unsophisticated. The process of pejoration can repeat itself around a single concept, leaping from word to word in a phenomenon known as the euphemism treadmill, for example as in the successive pejoration of the terms bog-house, privy-house, latrine, water closet, toilet, bathroom and restroom (US English).
When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called melioration or amelioration. One example is the shift in meaning of the word nice from meaning a person was foolish to meaning that a person is pleasant. When performed deliberately, it is described as reclamation or reappropriation. An example of a word that has been reclaimed by portions of the community that it targets is queer, which began being re-appropriated as a positive descriptor in the early 1990s by activist groups. However, due to its history and – in some regions – continued use as a pejorative, there remain LGBT individuals who are uncomfortable with having this term applied to them. The use of the nigga (specifically the -a variant) by black Americans is often viewed as another act of reclamation, though much like queer in the LGBT movement, there exist a vocal subsect of black people that object to the use of the word under any circumstances.
See also edit
- "Pejorative". Dictionary.com. Archived from the original on Mar 21, 2016. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- "Pejorative (adj.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
- Horobin, Simon (March 31, 2021). "Five words that don't mean what you think they do". The Conversation. Archived from the original on April 5, 2021. Retrieved 2021-04-05.
- Stollznow, Karen (2020-08-11). "Ableist Language and the Euphemism Treadmill". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2021-04-06.
- Bell, Vicars Walker (1953). On Learning the English Tongue. Faber & Faber. p. 19.
The Honest Jakes or Privy has graduated via Offices to the final horror of Toilet.
- Nordquist, Richard (3 October 2019). "Amelioration (word meanings)". ThoughtCo. Archived from the original on Jan 18, 2021. Retrieved 2021-04-06.
- Brontsema, Robin (2004-06-01). "A Queer Revolution: Reconceptualizing the Debate Over Linguistic Reclamation". Colorado Research in Linguistics. 17 (1). doi:10.25810/dky3-zq57. ISSN 1937-7029.
Linguistic reclamation, also known as linguistic resignification or reappropriation, refers to the appropriation of a pejorative epithet by its target(s).
- Perlman, Merrill (2019-01-22). "How the word 'queer' was adopted by the LGBTQ community". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
- Druhan, Colin (2019-03-06). "Our complicated relationship with the term queer". IN Magazine. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
- Higson, Rachel (2017-09-28). "Considering the N-Word: To Reject or Reclaim?". Prindle Institute. Retrieved 2023-03-12.
Further reading edit
- Croom, Adam M. (2011). "Slurs". Language Sciences. 33 (3): 343–358. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2010.11.005.
- Croom, Adam M. (2014). "Remarks on 'The Semantics of Racial Slurs'". Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations. Vol. 13, no. 1. pp. 11–32.
- Croom, Adam M. (January 2014). "The Semantics of Slurs: A Refutation of Pure Expressivism". Language Sciences. 41, Part B: 227–242. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2013.07.003.
- Henderson, Anita (Spring 2003). "What's in a Slur?". American Speech. Vol. 78, no. 1. Project MUSE. pp. 52–74.