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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Secret racist code words

Of course, of course! I should have known the mayor of New York was only mad about the transit strike because he's a racist! Thankfully, this open letter helped me understand.

I'd have figured it out sooner, except that somewhere, somehow, I clearly missed some important linguistic expansion. No doubt everybody but me knows that "thug" is a secret racist code word.


Main Entry: thug
Pronunciation: 'th&g
Function: noun
Etymology: Hindi thag, literally, thief: a brutal ruffian or assassin

(Hat tip: majikthise)


  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger da po' boy said;

    I don’t know. I think “thug” can be a racist code word. Click on the “Top ten search results for thug” on M-W Online. Notice the non-sponsored links and what they refer to.
    Also, we heard of bands of “thugs” roving around New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. How many of those “thugs” were bad people and how many of them were just black people? I guess thuggery is in the eye of the beholder.
    I don’t know if the New York mayor was using “thug” as a secret racist code word. But, then again, the secret message would not have been aimed at people like me.

  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger Polimom said;

    Wow! I'm getting old!

    Sure enough, yet another word seems to be starting the slang appropriation process.

    Of course, if I had used the word, I'd have had no idea whatsoever that there was anything other than the traditional definition out there.

    Given it's apparently narrow applicability to Rap and Hip Hop, though, I would be surprised if Bloomberg was giving a secret handshake there.

    He may just be an old fogey like me who really isn't up on the latest gangsta' lingo.

  • At 5:15 PM, Blogger bayoustjohndavid said;

    So any pejorative term that any racist ever uses about minorities is now a code word? By that logic, all pejoratives would have to be removed from public discourse. By constantly looking for new code words, liberals make it easier for the real racists to get away with using real code words.

    It's not like it's all one sided anyway. In the 1986 N.O. mayor's election (you may recall the FRONTLINE report), everyone knew what Jefferson was referring to when he told largely black crowds about Barthelemy's uptown Republican supporters. The words might not be as ugly (well republican?), but they were still code words.

  • At 11:14 PM, Blogger Gothamimage said;

    Polimom - stop by my blog and read the conversation Bush has with Hitchens and McClellan - see if you can spot any racist code words. You may. You may not. We shall see.

  • At 6:18 AM, Blogger YatPundit said;

    If you listen to Mr. Toussiant, the leader of the Transit union, it's clear that he's from Haiti, so it's possible. Thing is, union-busting politicians and corporate heads have called union leaders "thugs" for a century. The Irish, the Italians, the Poles, you name it, if they strike, they're "thugs" and "criminals." Most of Bloomberg's rhetoric fits that pattern more.

  • At 7:41 AM, Blogger Polimom said;

    The NYTimes has more on this.

    The bus driver who is quoted as saying "The word thug is usually attributed to people of color whenever something negative takes place," confounds me, unless my earlier comment is a screaming understatement - that I'm not just out of touch and getting old, but I've been living under a rock.

    Playing the race card like this obfuscates whatever the issues are, whether it's NYC or NOLA. Furthermore these filters and labels make it much harder for sincere, well-meaning people of all "colors" to communicate.

    I agree that just because someone is paranoid doesn't mean nobody's out to get them... but it also doesn't prove that everybody is - and therein lies the problem with overplaying the race card.

    I've written fairly extensively about race, and racism, on this blog (specific to NOLA, usually). A recent relevant entry is here.

  • At 10:02 AM, Blogger da po' boy said;

    Code words are code words because some words mean different things to different people. Racists might attribute one meaning to the word “thug” that you and I would not. So, the code word would not work on us because we don’t get the code.
    Once again, I don’t know enough about the New York mayor to determine if he was using this as a code word. I am just saying that “thug” can be used as a racist code word – just like when a religious fundamentalist wants to “protect the sanctity of life” I know that’s code for “stop abortion” because that person and I ascribe different definitions to that phrase.

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