Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 130

Full Length Research Paper

A nigger in the woodpile? A racist incident on a South African University campus

Vivian Anne de Klerk
Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 14 February 2011
  •  Published: 30 March 2011



This case study starts by providing a brief background description of the shock value of swearwords and derogatory terms before moving to a more focused discussion of the social and psycholinguistic features associated with their use. After a brief overview of the history of highly-charged taboo words referring to black African people in South Africa, the paper then discusses the repercussions of a recent and much-publicised racist incident on a South African campus in which the word ‘nigger’ was used by a white student against a black staff member and his family. Finally, some suggestions are made regarding directions for future research.


Key words: Nigger, taboo, racism, expletives, South Africa.