bigjohn

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“N is for …” ?

Posted by Big John on February 5, 2015

In a comment on my last post .. Shirley .. referred to the ‘N’ word, which got me thinking back to my much younger days and how that word was sometimes used here in the UK, and how, unlike today, it was somehow deemed to be inoffensive. Remember that ‘The Dam Busters’ movie, released in 1955, featured Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s dog which was named ‘Nigger’: and that ‘Nigger Brown’ was freely used when describing a popular colour for the fashions of the day. Also, a best seller by Agatha Christie was entitled “Ten Little Niggers” !

Prior to the arrival of the West Indian immigrants during the 1950’s, my knowledge of black people would have been gained from those stereotypes seen in Hollywood movies and early American TV comedy shows such as ‘Amos and Andy’, or ‘The Jack Benny Program’ with valet ‘Rochester’. No ‘N’ words in those shows, unlike all the ‘Nigga’ talk on American TV today.

When it came to home-grown entertainment, a famous and popular Music Hall (Vaudeville) entertainer was a white man, with blackened face, known as “The Chocolate Coloured Coon” ! .. and, can you believe, that for twenty years one of the most watched BBC TV shows was ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’ where all the white male artists ‘blacked-up’ and performed in true ‘Swanee River’ style.

In the days when it was still possible to see a ‘Nigger Minstrel Show’ on a seaside beach when on holiday, it would seem likely that to most people the ‘N’ word would have been used rarely and without the intention of giving offense.

Am I saying that in those days all British people were not racist ? .. Of course not: as was shown fifty years ago when in a general election the slogan was used … “If You Want a Nigger for a Neighbour, Vote Labour”: and let us not forget that we Brits never needed to import derogatory and racially offensive slang words, as can be seen in a parliamentary speech when it was said …   “Indeed, the Right Honourable Member for Woodford [i.e. Winston Churchill] thinks that …

…  the ‘WOGS’ begin at Calais” !

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4 Responses to ““N is for …” ?”

  1. Rummuser said

    I tried to leave comments on two occasions and I got a message saying that they could not be posted! Even, mechanised systems seem to now censor! Shall email you.

  2. Ginnie said

    I wrote a long comment and then couldn’t get it to take !!!!! I’ll try again here…

  3. Ginnie said

    OK…so I was wrong. What I said was that one time I visited my sister in a Nursing Home and it was Movie night. The movie was an old one and it constantly referred to Niggers, etc. I found it very disconcerting since all the patients attendants were black and they had that non-committal look on their faces that said “if thoughts could kill…….”

  4. Dick Klade said

    In the seven decades I can remember, I don’t recall “nigger” ever being used in the U.S. in anything but a derogatory sense. Now we have a small movement to remove the term from some great literature (“Huckleberry Finn” is a good example). I think that sort of censorship, no matter how well intended, should be resisted.

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