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Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper

Abstract

The debate over linguistic reclamation, the appropriation of a pejorative epithet by its target(s), is generally conceived of as a simple binary of support and opposition. I offer an alternative conceptualization that shows both the complex contrasts and commonalities within the debate. Specifically, I identify three perspectives: (1) that the term is inseparable from its pejoration and therefore its reclamation is opposed; (2) that it is separable from its pejoration and therefore its reclamation is supported; and (3) that it is inseparable from its pejoration and therefore its reclamation is supported. Additionally, by examining different goals within and across reclamations, I demonstrate the difficulty of assigning a fixed outcome of success or failure. Although the term queer serves as the primary case study, the terms black, nigger, cunt, and dyke supplement and expand the discussion from a specific study of queer to linguistic reclamation in general.

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