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The use of derogatory labels by majority groups usually aims to derogate and reinforce the target group’s disempowered state. However, reclaiming, and self-labelling in particular, has the ability to deprive the majority group members of a linguistic hurtful weapon. However, it is not as simple as it may appear. Several contextual factors, such as the label that is used, the social environment you are in, who uses the label, and the relationship between the label user and the target can affect how the label is perceived and the reactions it elicits. Reclaiming can be risky. We should consider that when we decide what label to use, especially if we use it toward others and not ourselves.
A Bad Word Made Good
To an innocent pair of English ears in Sydney, it came as something of a shock. In the course of an office conversation, an Australian colleague casually described a certain inner-city suburb as being populated predominantly by "wogs". "Did you just say 'wog'?" I asked, horrified. As others looked on, the general reaction was astonishment that the politically correct pom was taking offence.
Political Correction: How “PC” and “Reclaimed” Words Got Their Start
If a word is deemed politically incorrect by a person or group, then who decides whether or when it’s appropriate to use again? This is where reappropriation and reclamation of language enter the PC landscape. And like political correctness itself, these have a long academic history.
Should Targeted Groups Reclaim Slurs to Neutralize Them?
Reclaiming disparaging words, a process called reappropriation, could be a way for targeted groups of people to neutralize uncivil speech, say political scientists.