Mudcat Café message #4079515 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #168875   Message #4079515
Posted By: robomatic
13-Nov-20 - 03:13 PM
Thread Name: BS: A person of color and a colored person
Subject: RE: BS: A person of color and a colored person
In the United States referring to people as 'colored' was once upon a time, that time being the first half of the Twentieth century, a supposedly innocuous reference. Persons who I know to be liberal and in no wise bigoted grew up with that terminology and used it throughout their lives. About the fifties and thereafter that term shifted to 'negro'. The book "Black Like Me" came out in 1964. These terms and their usages changed at different times in different social venues, media formats, and timeframes. The term 'people of color' is I think a kind of rounding of the circle on this terminology.

In Britain the language has developed its own terms in its own eras. I remember that the n-word showed up in Gilbert & Sullivan lyrics (The Mikado)* and was when written in the latter part of the nineteenth century not put in as a pejorative. In a similar trans-Atlantic dichotomy, the word 'bloody' was considered unmentionable in English polite society for the longest time, with no similar understanding in the States. Going back to Gilbert & Sullivan, they had a work called "Ruddigore" which was a bit risky because of its similar meaning and rhyme.

I don't know enough of the ramifications of the OPs news brief, but harm can come from using a term one hears on one side of the pond without some cross-checking. Also our language is in a state of ferment and there are people who are:
1) Easily riled
2) Eager to lead the charge of change
3) Not patient enough to investigate the motives of the apparent offender.

There was a case of a student who yelled "water buffalo" at some folks he thought were making a lot of innappropriate racket. I think he escaped just barely getting thrown out of school. He thought he was escaping making a racial epithet. The offended said that the motive was clear precisely because he made that verbal substitution.

There was a case where someone got in trouble in the states for using the word 'niggardly'.

A lot of this stuff sounds foolish. But it highlights the importance of motivation and intention, and the perception of same. If you were referring to 'colored people' in the U.S. in the 1970s it had ramifications on how old you were, how you were using the word, what part of the country you were in, and the expression on your face. And most definitely your audience.

*The Gilbert & Sullivan authors and publishers long ago changed that lyric to get rid of the n-word. Like a hundred years ago.