nigger: old world v. new

original 1939 title of 'and then there were none'

Having a purely new world sense of the word, I nearly fell out of bed when I read the line,

…as strong as a nigger. p.41 The Death of The Heart.

Anna, for whom ‘bigot’ is an entirely pointless character development, uses it casually to describe her servant. Its usage clashed so strongly with my sensibilities, and this is after reading Blood Meridian and Beloved without the faintest pique, I felt compelled to find out why. Why do I accept it in some novels but never in others?

According to wiki, ‘nigger’, pejorative and all, was fair game in the UK until the 1970’s, so Anna’s speech is consistent with late 1930’s UK usage, which saddens me since I’d believed until now that the UK outpaced the US in race relations, hence my expectations and varying tolerance. Silly me.

Cue my own little death of the heart. Time for me to be maudlin, to mourn the loss of illusions, and continue to two-step around a word I wish was less loaded everywhere.

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