Should 'denigrate' be considered an offensive word?

(17 Posts)
partialderivative Fri 18-Dec-15 12:00:25

Apparently its original meaning is to 'blacken' someone.

I didn't know that until I came across it in an origin of words book.

I shall feel rather uncomfortable using it in the future. However, I may well be a touch too precious about these things

DropYourSword Fri 18-Dec-15 12:01:53

Is it something you foresee saying often??

partialderivative Fri 18-Dec-15 12:20:44

Fair point Sword, I was just surprised by its meaning.

And many words become offensive after quite innocent origins.

I am only interested in others' opinions. I do not hold a strong opinion.

TheLowKing Fri 18-Dec-15 12:48:40

Ooh, definitely. I also try to avoid using the word atrium, which also comes from a Latin word for black.

NigelMolesworth Fri 18-Dec-15 13:05:37

Sorry - pedantry alert. The word atrium comes from the Latin meaning hall and doesn't have anything to do with being black. I think you're thinking of the Latin adjective ater (which goes ater, artra, atrum) which means black. They're not the same word.

TheLowKing Fri 18-Dec-15 15:21:52

Further pedantry. atrium is believed to derive from ater - perhaps due to the heavy use of black paint in atrium frescoes (Barbara Borg A Companion to Roman Art, Wiley 2015), or perhaps, as Plautus (somewhere in Asinaria) claimed, because the walls were blackened by the hearth. Myself, I wonder whether, with only the compluvium and the doorway to the hortus providing natural light, any large atria were in fact rather gloomy, and so earned the soubriquet 'dark room'.

Preminstreltension Fri 18-Dec-15 15:38:43

Why would you avoid using a neutral word which derives from a word for black? Denigrate I can see the issue - and I didn't know that. But atrium? Or is that a Latin scholar joke grin

Love finding a pedant and a Latin scholar on the same thread btw grin

NigelMolesworth Fri 18-Dec-15 20:32:05

I knew as soon as I posted that there was a fair chance someone would come along and correct me! grin In my defence, my degree seems rather a long time ago now...

You'll appreciate my NM name then after my favourite drawing from The Compleet Molesworth of Kennedy taming the gerund!

NigelMolesworth Fri 18-Dec-15 20:32:35

Or rather MN nickname...!

Lilyargin Fri 22-Jan-16 21:37:05

What? This is ridiculous. Do you avoid using the word 'blacken'? Or 'black'? Or 'darken'? FFS! I've worked with people who won't ask for black coffee as it's 'racist'. How idiotic.

IrenetheQuaint Fri 22-Jan-16 21:56:35

That's fascinating LowKing. I had always thought of atria as being light as these days they are, but of course in the days before plate glass and large windows this wouldn't have been the case at all.

VagueIdeas Fri 22-Jan-16 22:05:32

First we'd need to establish whether the idea of "blackening" as a negative concept is rooted in race.

Is it? I genuinely don't know.

paintandbrush Sat 26-Mar-16 18:46:53

Oh for God's sake... grin it's clearly not a race thing, I'd imagine a little less literal, more like 'blacken someone's good name' etc in origin.

MrsSteptoe Sat 26-Mar-16 19:19:16

NigelMolesworth
My favourite of those illustrations is “Social snobbery. A gerund ‘cuts’ a gerundive”.

<goes to happy place>

MrsSteptoe Sat 26-Mar-16 19:22:28

First we'd need to establish whether the idea of "blackening" as a negative concept is rooted in race.

I don't know either. The negativity - black sheep, blacken someone's name - may be to do with darkness as in day/night, out in the open/concealed, rather than race.

But I think it's also an interesting debate to argue that, whatever the origin, an association between black and negative is now a powerful force in reinforcing negative racial stereotypes. I don't know if I'd argue it on Mumsnet, because an awful lot of posters are better at arguing than I am and I'm not free for the rest of the weekend, but I'd argue it with my DH. (Big fish. Small barrel.)

cdtaylornats Wed 15-Jun-16 22:53:43

There are lots of black things that it may stem from, coal, pitch, night.

The old Scots saying "as black as the earl of hell's waistcoat" just means really dark and is usually used for weather as in

"The thunder clouds came in at 5 and turned the night as black as the earl of hell's waistcoat".

A black sheep is obviously bad because you can't sell the wool.

JoJoSM2 Tue 28-Jun-16 16:01:55

I wouldn't use it as it sounds too similar to the you-know-what word. There are plenty of other words to choose from in the English language.

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