Can a hateful word change its meaning?

by Christian Gonzalez (Staff Writer) – 10/23/15

A student listening to modern pop music
A student listening to modern pop music

Rapping, singing, and performing; modern artists often use profanity, especially offensive slurs in their lyrics, leaving us with the question of whether or not the usage of these words can actually become acceptable. Some of these more popular artists include The Weeknd XO, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and Schoolboy Q.

It is possible that the reason offensive slurs are seeping into the common language of these modern artists is because these words are losing their negative connotation; people are finding these words less horrible to use.

It can also be that time is playing a significant role in the decrease of the magnitude some offensive slurs hold. As cultures and society are constantly changing over time, the meanings of words are also changing.

For example, the word “fag” has a completely different meaning than it had 100 years ago, but it is now used as an offensive slur towards someone who is homosexual. JJ McMullen, sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance here at Kennedy, expressed, “I hate it with a passion; it is never okay to say fag. I hope this word does lose negative connotation over time, but it will always be a sensitive word for me.”  The word has lost some of its negative power in recent years, as it now used more casually by the younger generation. However the word will always remain a sensitive subject for many people.

More locally, the word “nigga” is another example of an horrible word losing some of its power. A majority of these students that use this word don’t actually acknowledge that the root of the word “nigga” originated from the word “nigger,” but only because our society is no longer near the segregation time period, so the word is used more casually than it is hatefully now. Therefore the word has ultimately lost some negative power.

Similar to a cliche, slurs are so often used that they no longer have the same meaning anymore. The more people that use the word, the less taboo it will become resulting in a word that is longer seen as so bold and having an ugly meaning.

Deja Jamison, a junior, reflected that “the word ‘nigga’ is no longer used in any hateful manner,” and that it sometimes taken literal, which probably wasn’t the intended purpose.

Amanda Cornish, a junior, also believes that the word is acceptable, however, she only believes that it okay to use it exclusively in “playful situations.” There are many people that believe the word is fine to use, however there are also people who believe the word is in fact not okay to use.

Arianna Garcia, spoke, that she sees that word just as any other insult and that it shouldn’t be used because it could be interpreted as a verbal offense.

While there are people at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, it is clearly evident that slurs in general are like any other word and will lose meaning with usage in time. However it is not to say that words like “fag” and “nigga” shouldn’t be approached with caution as those words will always hold a history that linger with hate.