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Virtually every citizen of the United States has had numerous and various encounters with it. Before our very eyes, it has lived a extensive life, suffered a ruthless burial at the hand of the NAACP, and resurrected with a vengeance such that its death is questionable to the point of humor. It is so prevalent in society that it is safe to say that virtually every American has either heard it, been called it, or called someone else it. Perhaps the most complex term in the English language, the word “nigger” ranges from a potent insult to a loving term of endearment between friends. Its varying uses throughout time create major generation and social gaps and an overall lack of understanding between individuals on opposing sides of the argument of rather or not it is acceptable to use it. The word nigger, regardless of its spelling, takes on the connotation of whoever is speaking it, which in modern-day America, is more likely to be more positive or neutral than anything else.
In Gloria Naylor’s “The Meaning of a Word,” she discusses what she refers to as her first encounter with the word nigger. After becoming frustrated with her for boasting about her grades being consistently higher than his, a white child in Naylor’s third-grade class spitefully called her a nigger. Through context clues, tone, and body language, she immediately realized that she had been called a bad word. Through further examination she later came to realize that the encounter with the white student was far from her first time being exposed to that word. It was simply her first time hearing/being called the word with such venom; and a word can only have as much venom as the individual speaking it. In the beginning of her essay, Naylor states that “Words themselves are innocuous; it is the consensus that gives them true power”. This statement immediately took my mind to the new slang word “thot” that I was recently heard being used for the first time. Its meaning according to Webster’s dictionary is “an idea, plan, opinion, picture, etc., that is formed in your mind: something that you think of”. As a slang word, it is used to refer to a female whose promiscuous...

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