Essay Sample Dedicated to the Use of N-word and the Language Effect: Power and Politeness

Published: 2022-09-08
Essay Sample Dedicated to the Use of N-word and the Language Effect: Power and Politeness
Type of paper:  Critical thinking
Categories:  Linguistics Languages
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 668 words
6 min read

Part 1: Use of the N-word

Depending on how words are used in different contexts, meanings differ and how various subcultures view the same vary significantly too. When it comes to naming and identity, Dr. Cornell West and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson present different views and support of the N-word. The principal observation in the N-word's usage is the fact that it has been used to give varying identities depending on the interpretations across contexts. In some cases, the N-word can denote a racial slur towards the black people. On the other hand, it can indicate endearment for some young people. However, sensitivity varies according to the one using it and the intended meaning.

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In Dr. Cornell West's view, the N-word has given the black community more identity but somewhat in the negative light. Cornell suggests that it is essential for the rap musicians and hip-hop artists to be more sensitive regarding the use and vicious history of the N-word (West, 2007). The point of observation, here, is that there is a developing and past connotation of the word to depict self-hatred and self-disrespect. In this regard, it is possible to misunderstand the people who identify with it, which should not be the case.

On the other hand, Michael Eric Dyson has an uncompromising defense of the N-word. This support is evident in his case of hip-hop. As a subculture that gives the black people some identity, hip-hop is also inseparable from violent and materialistic culture. However, Eric Dyson doesn't defend violence or other elements that typify hip-hop such as sexism and homophobia. He insists on the idea that calling people "nigga" or "nigger" gives them an identity that can allow them to progress. Dyson suggests that controversies emerge since the blacks have found a more sexy use of the word (Black Voices, 2017). For that reason, there shouldn't be any demonization of hip-hop or any other cultural element that aligns with the practices, naming, and identity of niggers.

Part 2: Personal Example of Language Effect: Power and Politeness

Language diversifies according to contexts. In connection, an example of how it affects power and politeness is the use of the word fuck. Regarding power, there is some leniency when recognized people use it. A perfect illustration is in movies. When actors are frustrated, they tend to shout "what the fuck is going on?" among other situational remarks. However, the situation is different for those in lower cadres of the society. For instance, a child cannot use the same when speaking in front of elders. The politeness of the F-word is also dependent on the person using it and the setting.

In this case, the striking observation is that the severity of consequences between the N-word and the F-word is almost the same. In the first place, if the words are used among and within the populace that interprets it positively, there will be zero consequences. As such, it cannot be negative or racial slur in any case. If it is out of context such as in instances where people across races are using such language for derogatory purposes, the meaning changes and the severity of the consequences increases too.

By and large, the concept behind N-word according to the different interpretations as raised by Michael Eric Dyson is to stop discrimination based on race. Indeed, it is the same idea that Dr. Cornell West discusses. As in the case of the F-word as well, irrespective of the context and the intended meaning, some words can denote different meanings depending on the language that people use. Although their support to the N-word is contrasting, they agree on one thing, and it is the same with the F-word: it can be pejorative or give a positive description. Also, its inference is high if it had some controversies or racial remarks in the past.


Black Voices. (2017). Tim Allen 'N-Word' Rant Condemned By Michael Eric Dyson On 'Melissa Harris-Perry'. N.p.: Huff Post.

West, C. (2007). Race: State of Affairs. N.p.: The Washington Post.

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