Manufactured Offenses

by admin on April 25, 2012

In the “Miserly Hosts Make Guests Miserable” post last week,I used the very appropriate word, “niggardly”, to describe the miserably miserly actions of the hosts in the story towards their guests.    Several readers took issue with the use of the word:

Sorry I didnt know where else to put this but I have to object to admin’s use of the term niggardly in response to the story listed above about the terrible hosts. Its an awful word and there are plenty of others that could convey the same sentiment. Thanks

Niggardly? Really? It’s archaic. Like me claiming asking the gyno to take a look at my itchy c**t is fine, because c**t is a good honest Shakespearian word. (edited by the Admin to bleep out the actual word)

At least in the US, the word niggardly would be considered as insulting as to jew someone down on a price, or be an Indian giver. No need to publish this comment, but you may want to reconsider your choice of word in your response to this story.

I suppose it is to be expected that someone will take issue with a word they clearly associate as being racist due to its phonetic similarity to a reprehensible racial slur. The problem is that “niggardly” and “n****r” have completely different etymologies.   From Wikipedia:   “The word niggardly (miserly) is etymologically unrelated to n****r, derived from the Old Norse word nig (stingy) and the Middle English word nigon.”    The Straight Dope web site has a good post on this very subject here.    The visual image I get when using niggardly is Scrooge.  You know, Dickens’ Scrooge.  An old, rich, white miser.  (Oh, heavens, will my use of DICKens cause some apoplexy from the sexually squeamish?)     Niggardly is no more related to a racial epithet than shitzuh, shittum and Shitake is about excrement.

I even received negative comments about the title of another recent post on the wedding etiquette blog, Hell’s Bells, titled “Coloured Guests”, which those writing to me claimed was racist. (The blog post was about guests wearing inappropriate colors to a wedding.) The reasoning being that I had tricked them into thinking the blog post was about black wedding guests. That manufactured offense said more about those commenting that it did about my use of a perfectly good word in the proper context.

These are good examples of how etiquette does not require that we be doormats to every Tom, Dick, and Mary demanding we alter our behavior that is not meant to be offensive or apologize for their ignorance.   We should not be bullied into dropping perfectly good words from our vocabulary merely because someone has a heightened sense of offense founded either on their ignorance of word origins or from a willful desire to be offended at every opportunity.

Just because you are offended does not equate to you having a right to be offended.

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