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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

'Nigger' is the new 'Peasant'

One thing about living in the modern age is the ease at which one can look up the meaning of a word. And I'm not just talking about The Internet; I was able to pick up an 8-pound unabridged 1929 dictionary for its value in scrap paper. I'm therefore able to look up meanings that are now so obsolete that they may be left out of most online definitions. Thus my surprise when I found that there is a word with a very specific meaning I could have used instead of the word 'nigger' when writing this post.

The word is 'peasant.' An ancient meaning of the word, still found online, is:

a member of a class of persons, as in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, who are small farmers or farm laborers of low social rank.

Obviously, peasants were the niggers of their day. But you can see how this usage of the word has not kept pace with modern technology: niggers of the late 19th and early 20th century in the American South definitely fit this definition of peasants, but most niggers nowadays wouldn't.  You don't have to work on a plantation to belong to a class with a low social rank.