What do the two have in common? I have no idea. However, a person who sometimes comments here recently posted this image on Twitter:
The tweet he highlights is from me. It points out, quite correctly, the meanings of words change over time. It uses the word “idiot” as an example. People used “idiot” as a clinical term for mentally handicapped people. It fell out of fashion because the word began being used as a pejorative, much like how the word “retard” is used in modern times.
That’s an unremarkable point to make. Nobody could possibly question the fact the meanings of words change over time. The Leopard In The Basement didn’t. Instead, he made this strange remark:
Where did this come from? I don’t know. We had been discussing the meaning of the word “nigger,” with me claiming it is not a horribly offensive word anymore. Decades ago, many black people, especially within the hip-hop culture, appropriated the word in an attempt to strip it of its power as a racial slur. My belief is they’ve done a pretty good job of it.
But that doesn’t matter. You can disagree with me if you’d like. You can believe “nigger” is a horribly offensive word. You can believe society as a whole shares your view. Whether I’m right or wrong about how that word is viewed in modern times has no bearing on what The Leopard In The Basement said. This is made more clear if we look at a later tweet of his:
He explicitly claims my theory is “a ‘nigger’ 100 years go equals ‘idiot’ 100 years ago.” I said nothing of the sort. The tweet I responded to when bringing up the word “idiot” referred to the meaning of nigger “a couple centuries earlier.” It wouldn’t make sense for me to equate the meaning of two words 100 years ago in response to a comment about the meaning of one word 200+ years ago. He ignores the context given by his own tweet in order to create a false interpretation of what I said.
But that’s trivial. His inability to get a simple detail right may be suggestive as the more a person gets details right, the more likely they are to be right in general, but the real problem is what he said makes absolutely no sense. I didn’t do anything to associate “idiot” and “nigger.” I didn’t do anything to associate “idiot” and “slave.” There was nothing in my tweet which even hinted at such an association. All I said was offer the word idiot as an example of how the meaning of words could change. He wants people to believe that means:
I responded on Twitter, pointing out his interpretation was completely baseless. I also called him an idiot for offering such a stupidly baseless interpretation. He chose not to even attempt to justify what he said, and I figured the subject would die. Then he posted this tweet:
That tweet was directed at the public in general. It highlights my completely unremarkable tweet which points out how the meaning of the word idiot has changed over time. Nobody could possibly read that tweet and think I endorse slavery or hold whatever other offensive position The Leopard In The Basement is suggesting I hold.
For some reason, he decided to draw attention to that unremarkable tweet as though it proves him right in his ludicrous interpretation of what I’ve said. I don’t get that. People are free to hold different views. People are free to disagree about subjective things. What they’re not free to do is promote figments of their imagination as things other people have said, especially if they do so in order to paint someone in a negative light.
Well, I guess they are free to do that as long as it doesn’t amount to slander/libel. Everyone else is just free to say they’re idiotic, insane or anything else.
Note: I won’t allow racial slurs to be used on my site. People are, however, free to use the words/phrases in an academic manner for discussion purposes so long as they can keep civil about it.