Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling from Redskin to WASP

By Irving Lewis Allen | Go to book overview

APPENDIX GOOD READING ON BAD WORDS

Ethnic slurs in American slang and other popular speech are treated in a variety of sources, all of which are readily available to the interested reader. H. L. Mencken was the first to give attention to homegrown terms of ethnic abuse in American English, beginning in the early editions of The American Language. The essays appear in their final form in the fourth edition and its two supplements. The abridged edition of The American Language (edited by the late Raven I. McDavid Jr. in 1963), though, has most or all the material on terms of ethnic abuse.

Most ethnic slurs are collected in several dictionaries of American slang. The best is still Wentworth and Flexner Dictionary of American Slang (second supplemented edition, 1975). Stuart Berg Flexner, the principal editor and compiler, enters 275 terms, and supplies authoritative dates of origin, etymologies, and examples of literary usages. Flexner also conveniently lists these words in the appendices, including an addendum in the supplement. Flexner later book, I Hear America Talking, recounts a number of true stories about how ethnic slurs originated in the course of American social history.

In 1944 the psychologist Abraham A. Roback published

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