Civil Liberties

It's Called Doublespeak, Bitch


The New York City Council, which brought us such futilities as a moratorium on the word "nigger" (no matter who says it or in what context), continues its battle against free speech. In an effort to promote civility and general niceness, the words "bitch" and "ho" will reportedly soon join the "n-word" on a list of Words That Shall Not Be Named. The legislation (as well as the sensitive NYT) delicately refers to the offending noun as "The B Word," and seems rather unnecessarily focused on rap music:

The measure, which 19 of the 51 council members have signed onto, was prompted in part by the frequent use of the word in hip-hop music. Ten rappers were cited in the legislation, along with an excerpt from an 1811 dictionary that defined the word as "A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman."

While the bill also bans the slang word "ho," the b-word appears to have acquired more shades of meaning among various groups, ranging from a term of camaraderie to, in a gerund form, an expression of emphatic approval. Ms. Mealy acknowledged that the measure was unenforceable, but she argued that it would carry symbolic power against the pejorative uses of the word. Even so, a number of New Yorkers said they were taken aback by the idea of prohibiting a term that they not only use, but do so with relish and affection.

Cast your mind back to December 2006 when Katherine Mangu-Ward listed all the things the New York City Council tried to ban that year.