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Should the Washington Redskins Be Renamed the Washington Rednecks?

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The Washington Redskins' name controversy
Wikipedians have outdone themselves in outlining the multiple aspects and perspectives of the Washington Redskins' name controversy. Personally, I have always interpreted the expression "redskin" as a racist slur. However, despite complaints, protests and a number of court cases, "Redskins" has survived as the name of the Washington NFL team since 1933. Justification and defense of the name include the fact that some Native Americans support its use and even use it themselves as an object of pride. Additionally, the expression's origins are etymologically neutral and only took on negative connotations from the way the locution has been used.
How language evolvesAs I've pointed out elsewhere, in the evolution of language, usage trumps definitions and origins. How a word gets used eventually becomes its meaning. "Redskin," particularly as it has been dominantly used in American culture, is an i…

The Pronoun Wars

Pronouns and antecedents When I first heard about "the pronoun wars," I assumed the debate was about the old problem of the correct pronoun to use when "everyone" was the antecedent.  This is the related question that I put on the mid-term exam for the course on Applied Grammar I was teaching in 1994.


You have been asked to edit an official government document.  You have to decide what to do about the following sentence:"In the future every university student will be required to pay 51% of the cost of their education."If you decide to change the sentence (or not to change it), you will have to explain your decision to three people:  Mr. Boyle,  who is a strict grammarian; Ms. Doyle, who is a proud feminist, and Mrs. Murphy, who likes to see problems solved in a practical, common-sense fashion.Explain the problem with the sentence, and give your decision and justifications.  

Traditional grammar versus feminism The traditional grammarian would insist that t…