Wednesday 19 July 2017

Something nasty in the woodpile

So talking of things you’re supposed to ‘know’ not to say,

“The term ‘nigger in the woodpile’ is not racist. It may have historical racist connotations and contain an unpleasant word, but it is not itself racist per se, unless the person using it means it to be. I have a woodpile next to my garage. If I saw a black person hiding there and said, appalled: ‘Look, there’s a nigger in the woodpile!’, that would be racist and deeply offensive.”

Back in the politically incorrect days of old, pet owners often named their beloved four-legged friend in a straightforwardly descriptive, if somewhat unimaginative way; for example a black animal might be named “Blackie”. Many a  brown dog went by the name “N-word”.
Did it cross our minds that this was pejorative or more racist than, say, Fido? Or Fenton?

To test out this argument properly I tried to think of a meaningful phrase containing the word ‘Kike’ to see if I would feel offended. I couldn’t think of anything analogous so I inserted the offending word into the woodpile instead of the N-word. It did sound pretty offensive, but without the etymology it was pointless, so I left it. But how are you supposed to decide anything if you cant even go ‘eeny meeny miny mo’? Remember! O U T spells ‘out’ and out you must go.


  1. Sorry, Liddle is wrong this time. It's easy enough for him or you or me to see the word used so casually, but let's see him or anyone else explain to a black American person of a certain age, or even a younger one living in certain parts of the Northeast or South that they should ignore it, no big deal, it doesn't mean what you think it means.

    Sorry, no. He's right about niggardly, of course.

    But we shouldn't forget that, as entertaining and useful as Liddle can be, he is a nasty piece of work. His first thought after that Muslim thug butchered Drummer Rigby was to call him a "black savage" instead of a "Muslim savage". His defense was that he used that term because he was worried about the backlash for saying "Muslim savage". He's full of sh!t. Anyone reading his stuff over the years would know his first instincts are often unpleasant. I've said many times how wrong it is to claim that the primary motivation to vote Brexit is racism, but with Liddle, it pretty much is. Whatever he says now really needs to be seen in the context of his very recent behavior.

    It's pathetic how many of his Spectator reader fans think he's Right-wing because of his snarky remarks on immigration and Muslim culture, but that's another rant altogether.

    I'm the last person to advocate not using any words or expressing any thoughts, but this an easy one that really doesn't infringe on anyone else's freedom of thought. Sometimes it's just decorum and good manners.

    Having said that, I suppose it's necessary to point out that I am firmly against censoring historical documents and pretending something didn't happen. That's dangerous. It's no threat to any black person today to read Huckleberry Finn or to watch certain Bugs Bunny cartoons, or the very first few Tom and Jerry cartoons. I have mixed feelings about the original version of the Beethoven 'Pastorale' sequence of Disney's 'Fantasia', from which certain scenes have been cropped out of the currently available version. I do not, however, believe that 'Song of the South' and Uncle Remus Stories should be censored in any way. It is what it was, nobody benefits from pretending otherwise.

    I stand behind no one in defending Daniel Barenboim (I know, I know) performing Wagner in Israel, and I would certainly have the courage to explain that and defend my position to a Holocaust survivor or anyone else. Suffice to say I have thought this issue through before.

    But there's really nothing to be gained by defending anyone saying 'nigger in the wood pile' today. Just apologize, claim brain freeze, she's not an American so it's not imprinted, or something along those lines.

  2. Nigger has never been a term of racial abuse in the UK, (we always used 'wog'), and the 'woodpile' phrase no more relates to 'persons of colour' than 'black as the ace of spades'. These racial or national nicknames aren't or shouldn't be offensive of themselves anyway. Is calling someone an 'African-American bastard' less offensive than 'Bastard nigger'? It's the 'bastard' bit that is nasty surely?
    In the case of the NitWP MP no-one there was offended, it was just a case of someone 'telling tales' to stir up trouble. All part of the leftist stupidity where you can't define anyone by their obvious charactersistics of skin colour, sex or body shape but are expected to 'celebrate' whatever demented 'gender identity' they have thought to fill their empty brains with that particular moment. These are truly 'first world', (rapidly becoming third world), problems and needing and deserving our total contempt.

    1. Wrong. I've seen graffiti on the London tube with the N word used in a racist way. The female MP concerned must be extremely stupid if she thought she could use the phrase without giving offence.

    2. Probably written by one of the brown-eyed boys. They openly use it in public, they are the new 'untouchables'.

    3. To the 'Anonymous' who posted at 06.48. I'm afraid you're wrong: in the 1964 General Election, a Tory candidate won in Smethwick - a controversial win because his campaign was associated with the slogan, "If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour." It has been impossible to hold a rational debate on the subject of immigration ever since.

  3. As a youngster growing up in rather a rough area of England in the 1970"s we never used that term. We thought it was a rather unpleasant American term. We used darkie, coon and wog in the same way that we referred to Iti's Kraut's, Frog's et al. It was simply a way of pigeon holing people (apologies to pigeons), and much of it came from our parents and their war experiences. I don't know why but nigger has always seemed a particularly unpleasant and aggressive term when used about someone. I can certainly see why someone might be upset by it. What I can't see is why black people should use it about each other, which I understand is the case.

  4. It can be a minefield, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. I have for example, often been confused by why “coloured” is unacceptable but “people of colour” is not, but there may be connotations that I am unaware of. If black people prefer to be referred to as black ultimately we have to defer to that - as with all people.

    I wouldn’t want to ban people from being deliberately provocative, but I think Liddle’s motives are questionable.

    1. My Mum, trying to keep up, once was lambasted for using 'coloured person'.

      Now it is 'person of colour' I am very glad she is no longer around to try and explain the distinction.

      Me, I am melanin challenged, age excessive, barnet recessive and notionally a him. For now.

  5. I read the comments here first before I read Liddle's article. Liddle,as usual, is trying to make a wider point and I get the point he's trying to make.

    Jonathan Miller, about 30 years ago, stated that "the weapon of language is in the semantics, not the phonetics".
    That quote has always stuck with me and is undoubtedly true.
    However, 'nigger' has never had a semantically benign wrapper when applied to humans, so the weapon is always built in to the phonetics.
    If I were black and anybody called me nigger, no matter what colour they were, I'd be offended.
    If it was said by a non-black person, I'd challenge them on their unawareness and motivation.
    If it were a black person, I'd challenge them on their assumption of familiarity, because the idea that all black people find the term acceptable from someone from their own colour is simply ridiculous.
    Maybe that's a 'white' assumption, but I doubt it.

    1. I get the point Liddle is trying to make, too. He is still wrong that it should be okay to say 'nigger in the woodpile'. His attempt to place it on the same level as 'niggardly' is a non sequitur.

    2. I agree with all you initially wrote you on this, (except that I very much enjoy Liddle's diatribes and don't dislike him.)

      "However, 'nigger' has never had a semantically benign wrapper when applied to humans, so the weapon is always built in to the phonetics."
      is a pretty clear dismissal of his initial argument. Of course it's racist.

    3. I enjoy many of his screeds, and do know the difference between when he's trying to shock and when he's saying what he thinks. Over the years, though, it's pretty clear he can be a nasty piece of work all the same. Having said that, even if I didn't know his history, or his history was all positive and lovely and I was a big fan, I would still object to this particular statement and would say the same thing.

      He's still very useful as an appeal to authority when pointing out BBC bias anyway.


    A little bit of AA Milne and Photoshop and I could have some fun.

    1. Peter, I keep not following up your links because, on my Android tablet, they appear in black & white instead of blue for a link. Do you know of any way to copy & paste them, short of firing up my PC? This one is just too long to type out without mistakes creeping in. Many thanks.

    2. Kind and helpful responses below. Pretty much how it is.

      Blogger is not great. I regret my sites use it but Wordpress was not dominant then.

      On my iPad I simple copy and paste the quoted URL into a new page on Safari.

      However, I have had a mooch, and what I have found suggests almighty Google is dragging its feet, at best.

      Let me try. Here's the best answer I can find:

      Now, let me try (!) to use the advice and create said hyperlink:

      Fingers crossed

      A miracle if it works, and an utter palaver. If not... plan B ?

    3. The above...

      A) not quite as intended
      B) After countless attempts

      I don't think Blogger, tablets and url links are easy bedfellows

    4. Peter, thanks for trying - at least the words went blue...along with the air I expect!

    5. No actual hyperlinking for you? It does at least work... for me.

      If I had a cat I'd give it a nasty stare.

  7. They appear that way on my iPad too - I think it's a problem with the website (Sorry Sue and Craig) rather than Peters linking ability.

    1. Thanks for that Clockwork - I wasn't doubting Peter's ability - just wondered if there was something I'm doing wrong, because the average 8 year-old has computer skills far in advance of mine!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. You're right, Clockworkorange. Very rarely people have managed to post clickable blue links (showing it is possible) but I think I only managed it once, and genuinely by accident - and it's my own blog! It is a very basic blog, tech-wise, alas. Other than trying to move to Disqus again (which was a disaster the last time we timed it, sending all previous comments into a wormhole in deepest space), I can't work out how to improve it.

  8. For me "nigger in the woodpile" is an out of date expression that I haven't heard for many years. I heard it when I was a child, maybe even used by parents. I suspect that it crossed over from the USA via servicemen (who's language is of course very "choice") and that it's American racial connotations were somewhat less important in the UK of the time. Nevertheless I'm surprised the MP used it; it's so old fashioned. And there are "fashions" in language; what was obscene are now common on the BBC.

    But the howling of the new was illustrative of how language is controlled so that our thoughts are controlled. I wouldn't say "nigger", but should I say "black" or "person of colour"? These are all racial identity political terms, and actually I try not to use any of them. I'm truly more interested in nationality and what goes inside the head than the skin colour, so I want know if someone in a news item is a communist, Muslim, or nothing in particular. I think the BBC's use of the term Asian for certain criminals is racist.

  9. Remember, Anne Marie Morris didn’t call anyone “N****r”. The offending expression is certainly obsolete / no longer in normal use, which makes her out of touch rather than racist. (Look for the intent.) Not really a sacking offence, but perhaps worthy of a slap on the wrist.

    Arguing for certain words to be ‘unsayable’ takes one down a long and winding path (in my view) and seems all the more bizarre considering that the most taboo words of the recent past (f***k and c**t) are now virtually common parlance.

    The “N-word” (depends who says it) is derogatory and racist, but I can’t agree that it (or any other word) should be proscribed. The whole idea seems bonkers.


    BTW, I find that using the “a href=“ tag in the comments field produces: “Blogger doesn’t accept “http” “.
    If you delete “http://“ (but leave “www.”) the relevant text does go blue but leads to a broken link. I gave up trying.

    A blip in the comments field yesterday meant that you couldn’t preview your comment. Click on ‘preview’ and the comment vanished. It's fixed now.


    Hands up all those in favour of Disqus even if we lose all the old comments?

    1. Clearly there is some entity within the Blogger code pile that makes such links unreliable, to be kind, not to mention a trial, to err on understatement.

      But it is doable.

      And I value archives above all. So for me Google's unloved child for me 'wins', hands down.

    2. Told you my computer skills were limited, didn't I?
      It just occurred to me to click on the 'blue bit' you painstakingly created & up popped photo of woodpile & little dog. (Are we still allowed to say woodpile?). I'm afraid I was expecting the blue bit to look like a web address, so hadn't clicked on it before!

    3. ;)

      Wicked skills, me.

      No teenagers were harmed by getting them out of bed too early, either.

    4. Thank you say re modern swear words. When my politically correct friend said the use of the word nigger was offensive, even when I pointed out that it was an idiom and not directed at anybody. I pointed out, exactly as you did, those words that can now appear on the BBC (including to describe the health minister with a giggle) and I am offended. But as a middle aged, middle class white woman, offending me doesn't count.

    5. Third word should be Sue, rather than say. Google correcting even when it wasn't asked to.

  10. I think many ITBBCB? readers/contributors also follow Guido Fawkes, but in case anybody's not seen it, Guido points out that the number of job offers in the City is up by 17% (I won't try to post a link!) No mention of this on BBC 1 News - does anyone know if it was mentioned elsewhere in the Beeb Empire?

    1. Doesn't fit the Narrative, so will not be reported. At least not reported prominently, across the spectrum, or favorably.

    2. But, but... Morgan Freeman has refused to holiday here until Trump is fired.

      Or something.

  11. Not a BBC is biased issue, but a very revealing Any Questions this week. The discussion turned to the Irish border and how to police it.
    Emily Thornberry aimed her comments at social justice applause (yes, the audience was a veritable Thornberry fan-club) with her "conservatives in dis-array, yet I seem to have no solutions" spiel.

    Then Theresa Villiers basically pointed out that an open Irish border with no access to 'the system' of welfare, housing, and the immediate right to work on the Northern side would mean that free movement
    reasons to cross the open border in the first place would be reduced.
    The nub of the whole dichotomy.
    The epicentre of it all. No pull, no flow.

    And Thornberry went all quiet for a while......

  12. Silencing Thornberry, even for a little while, is a major achievement - hats off to Theresa Villiers!


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