The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

Words such as the N-word and other words aren't offensive

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/2/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,462 times Debate No: 36280
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)




I'm arguing that words such as "nigga" and "faggot" aren't offensive by itself. It all depends on the person, context, and the situation.


Thanks for the opportunity to debate this interesting topic. As agreed the first round is an argument round. So I’ll go first and outline my basic position.

I will begin debate by setting out an essential linguistic concept we should all be able to agree upon. Words meanings are defined by society they have no inherent meaning. It does not make sense to think of a word’s definition without at least the context of the society it is in.

I am going to use the n-word almost exclusively in my examples as it is a perfectly good example of what I would like to debate. This way I hope to avoid confusion or silly side-long arguments and can come to a real understanding of how and why this word is offensive.

I do not mean to argue that the word is offensive always and everywhere, words are contextually and societally defined. I mean to argue that you cannot separate the word from its meaning of being offensive without totally ignoring the word’s societal definitions. Any reasonable route to understanding the word’s meaning will result in the word being called offensive. In particular I will be arguing that:
        • The traditional usages of the word are offensive.
        • Used in a generic ways it is almost always offensive.
        • The strongest most prevalent definition of the word is offensive.
        • Even the rare situations that it is used in a way that is not offensive the word is virtually exclusively referring to or playing off its traditional offensive meaning.
As the debate continues I hope to develop further each of these arguments and I will try to use clear headers so that my arguments can be easily sorted.
Debate Round No. 1


I would first like to thank my opponent for agreeing to this debate and I am excited to get this started

The traditional usages of the word are offensive.
The strongest most prevalent definition of the word is offensive.

From this statement, you have to determine what the "traditional usage" is. (I'm going to use the n-word as example). Back during the civil rights movement, the n-word was used in order to degrade the African American community, but as time moved on, the n-word was adopted by the African American community to mean something else. The n-word today has become a substitute for friend (mainly African American friend) and can be compared to words such as "dude" or "bruh." The n-word can defiantly be used as a verbal weapon to hurt someone, but keep in mind that pretty much any word can.

Used in a generic ways it is almost always offensive.

By generic I'm going to assume that means when the word is not used directly to describe someone. In that case I am an African American myself and I am not offended by this debate at all even though we are discussing the n-word. However, I will admit that how offensive a word is depends on the person hearing the word and how they perceive it. To say that it is almost always offensive however is a claim that has yet to be proved."


1) Use-Mention Distinction

"In that case I am an African American myself and I am not offended by this debate at all even though we are discussing the n-word."

There is a difference between using and mentinoing a word. In this conversation we have only ever been refering to a word not using it's meaning as part of a sentence. Since we are only refering to the meaning these types of usages can't be used to understand or define the words. It is only when the word is used in a sentence that it's meaning matters.

2) Used in Generic Ways it is almost always offensive
The only people who can use the n-word without risking being offensive are african american's. Only a very small proportion of gennerally young african american's do in fact use the word in it's non-racist form with any remote frequency.

Whenever a white, asian... uses the n-word to refer to someone they are likley to insult that person or group. Which is fair considering the connotation of the word is that the speaker believes the subject is contemtible, ignorant... or some other horrible thing. Also even if they don't insult the subject it can be fairly taken as an insult by any african american as it is a reference to the race as well. So for most context's the word is going to be offensive.

3) Usage not always offensive does not mean it is not an offensive word

Of course it can be used without insulting people. That does not mean it is not an offensive word. To explain this I'll use an example of the word 'hate'. I think most people would agree 'hate' is a negative word. But, it is not used every time in a negative way. For example, recently went up to a co-worker of mine said "I hate you" then walked away. Now in the particular context where I'm known to be a joking person who dosen't hate almost anybody so it was not taken in a negative or offensive way. But that dosen't mean you wouldn't say 'hate' is a negative word. It is a negative word that sometimes happens to get used in other ways.

4) Tradition

The word has been used less as society has moved forward. The word's definition is very much associated with the time it was used more often. A strong and long history of a word like this as a word of oppression does not allow the word's primary meaning to change. When most people read, hear or think the n-word they hear the more offensive version of the word primarily. Even if they understand in context that it does not mean that in this case. It will take much more time and usages for the history of the word to be forgotten and not to be an offensive word.
Debate Round No. 2


I'm going to give one big point because I do believe that this point relates to all of my opponents points.

Offensive is defined as something that causes someone to feel hurt,, upset or even angry. This means that just about anything can be offensive to anybody and the reason that the n-word is considered offensive is because more people are offended when people use the n-word in a sentence due to its sad past. However, it's not the word that people are offended by, it is the experiences that the word brings up. I'm willing to argue that people aren't offended by the word, but instead by the person that spoke with the intentions of harming another.

So to reiterate, it's not the word but the intention that people take offense to.
Thanks again for the debate I'm having a fun time


Your current argument is a little abstract so I'd like to take my time to break it down.

My opponent's definition of offensive is "Offensive is defined as something that causes someone to feel hurt, upset or even angry." This is a fine definition and I will support it entirely. So the question becomes does the N-word cause people to feel hurt, feel upset or feel angry. My opponent agree's that "more people are offended when people use the n-word in a sentence due to its sad past." I think in this debate we have pretty clearly established that often when people are called the N-word they are feel those emotions because that word was used. Now, my opponent and I also agree that the experiences the n-word brings up or alternatly the intetions of the person speaking it cause the people to be offended. Where we disagree is I think that the experiences the word brings up, the preceived intentions of the person using the word and the word itself cause people to be offended. How can they all cause the same person to be offended at once? I'll break it down step by step.
    1. Person refers to someone using the n-word.
    2. The subject hears the word.
    3. The subject interprets that word and the use of the word indicates they have bad feelings towards african americans
    4. The african american refered to is offended
Each of these steps caused the person to be offended. My point is just because the intenetions of the speaker caused the african american(s) to be offended doesn't mean the word wasn't also the cause. They were both necessary coditions.
Thanks, I am enjoying this debate as well.
Debate Round No. 3


I don't know if your allowed to do this in a debate, but I have to admit when I am defeated. I have nothing else to say about this debate because I am starting to relate with my opponent's view instead of mine.

After debating with my opponent, I realized that claiming that the n-word is offensive is bold of me to claim. I realized that people can hold ties to these words and can in fact be offended by them. I do, however, hold on to the belief that whether a word is offensive or not depends on the individual and how they have been exposed to that word.

Thanks to this debate, I have gained a new view of this issue and I thank my opponent for the debate.


I doubt there is any rule against admitting defeat in a debate. I'm also new to so I can't tell you what the websites etiquette would recommend, or even if there is an answer. Regardless, it good to see you are still open minded enough to change your mind. I fear my own worldview will become stagnant and stop changing with learning new information or hearing new ideas. It is always great to see someone fighting this instinct. As a good practice I'll write up my debate summary anyway. Thanks for a good debate.

First, I'd like to remind everyone that while the subject is n-word and other words aren't offensive we have both used only the n-word as an example. This simplfies the debate because since the resolution state "N-word and other words aren't offensive" to show this is false all I need to show is that the n-word is offensive.

I think in this debate we both have agreed that:

1) The n-word is used in ways that it offends people.
2) There are circumstances that the n-word does not offend and was not meant to offend.

But the debate is not about whether or not the can be offensive it is about whether or not in some generic sense the word is offensive. I used the example of the word hate which is a negative word to show that you can use descriptors on words even if not every instance of the word matches that descriptor. Then showed for most people to use this word they heavily risk being offensive. This is because with a long and powerful history as offensive slur against african american's the term has not and will not in the near future break from it's primary offensive meaning. Con attempted to contradict this statement by claiming that it was the word wasn't being offensive simiply the intention of the speaker. I showed that just because the speaker's preceived intention may be the cause of the offense taken it was also caused by the word itself. In many cases the use of the n-word indicates the speaker was racist causing the subject to be offended.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
This was a very interesting, short debate. I was going to read it again because I thought PRO had a very interesting perspective on the usage of the n-word, but then he conceded, lol.

Conduct PRO for graceful concession, arguments to CON. Well argued by both. Nice try at a difficult resolution, PRO.
Posted by Sandy8 3 years ago
The N-word (and other words), although can be used in a positive connotation, can also be very offensive. There are alternative words (friend, loyal, trustworthy, etc.) that can be used instead and have the same meaning, so it isn't really worth it to refer to such a word. Even if it is meant positively, some people actually find it very offensive. It's not worth it to risk hurting someone when you can use a better term that has the same meaning.
Posted by PBJS 3 years ago
Somebody include the Chinese words na ge which in English sounds like nigga
Posted by Antman036 3 years ago
Sorry about that
Argument round
Posted by meitme 3 years ago
Is the first round argument slot for con an argument round or simply a accepting argumentation slot? I'm happy to debate you but I would like the conditions to be made clear.
Posted by funwiththoughts 3 years ago
Damnit. You already took Con.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by IslamAhmadiyya 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con convinced me on his first argument but Ant did an okay job too, both had good spelling and conduct.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: see comments.