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contempt - connotation - derogatory - disparaging - language - negative - slur - term of abuse


A word or phrase is pejorative if it expresses contempt or disapproval about the thing or person described. Most pejorative expressions may also be used in a non-pejorative way, however, and (as with any implied meaning) determining the intent of the speaker is problematic.

Although pejorative means the same thing as disparaging, the latter term may be applied to a look or gesture as well as to words and phrases.

Sometimes a term may begin as a pejorative word and eventually grow to have a non-pejorative sense. This happened with the terms Yankee and Ham radio operator, which changed from being slang insults to being worn with pride. In other cases, some groups have attempted to reclaim formerly offensive words applied against them, with limited success: In many cases, usage of a term like nigger, redneck, dyke, queer, faggot, tranny, Kraut, or cripple by someone outside the group is still considered pejorative (and thus offensive).

Conversely, a neutral (non-pejorative) term may grow to become pejorative: The term retarded, to refer to a person whose mental capacity is permanently weak, was originally used as a euphemism to avoid the pejorative senses of words like moronic, feebleminded, and half-witted. But it quickly grew to have a pejorative sense of its own. (It is worth noting that, in its own time, moron was a euphemism for the pejorative word idiot.) This same progression, from neutral to pejorative, may be happening with the words challenged and special, used in the same sense, today. Language writer Steven Pinker has called this process "the euphemism treadmill."

Since meanings change over time, consult an up-to-date dictionary for information on specific words. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pejorative [Aug 2004]

Terms of disparagement [...]

Terms of disparagement are pejorative terms such as yid, kike, nigger, whore, slut, fag and queer whose use usually arouses painful feelings in the target, members of the targeted group or sympathizers. They may also signify derision for people of specific geographic areas, such as Mick, Kraut and Jaffa.

Etiquette experts recommend that these insults should be avoided in polite society. Even used in impolite society they could cause friction, and even violence. Sociologists point to derisive language as an indicator of flawed reasoning about the character or motivation of others. Though insults are common, and often used in jest, a fundamental axiom of sociology recognizes that derogatory forms of speech make erronious attributions about the character of a person. Scholars classify the erroneous assumptions as the fundamental attribution error.

Terms of disparagement may or may not be fighting words.

See also: List of ethnic slurs, List of sexual slurs --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_of_disparagement [Oct 2004]

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