March 30, 2007

Wilmore/Oliver Investigates: N-word!

Thanks to the miracle of TiVo, I rarely miss a Daily Show, though sometimes not for several days after the fact. Such is the case with respect to Wednesday's show, which I laughed my head off at tonight. Thanks to the miracle of streaming video, you too will be able to share and enjoy!

To be specific, I was laughing at the segment Wilmore/Oliver Investigates: The N-Word! As you know, the taboo nature of the N-word has come up on Language Log now and then, so I was all ears when I heard the topic of their report, and they did not disappoint.

They really touched basically all the high points of the issues we've hit on over the years. There was a running joke where Oliver, the white British guy, did most of the narrating, and Wilmore, the black American guy, said 'nigger' whenever it needed saying in the narration, sending up the in-group/out-group constraint.

Even Wilmore, though, was really only mentioning the n-word, not using it; another joke involved him filling in mention after mention of the n-word, and then at a pause in Oliver's discussion, filling in with an actual use, which gets Oliver all flustered. Here's a transcript of that exchange, the beginning of an interview with a councilman who wants to ban the n-word:

Oliver: So, Leroy, you want to ban this Larry...(points to him)
Wilmore: "Nigger".
Oliver: Thank you. What he said. Ah. Is the word, um,
Wilmore: "Nigger".
Oliver:...offensive to everyone, or just to...
Wilmore: Niggers.
Oliver: No, nonono, I was just, I was just pointing to ... don't use that term, please!

Later on, there's a whole exchange illustrating the lack of illocutionary force in linguistic example sentences (produced by Wilmore), which incidentally also serves as a basic part-of-speech primer, and plays on the whole "niggardly "flurry, too.

Anyway, the whole thing is just brilliant, really. Check it out!

Posted by Heidi Harley at March 30, 2007 03:02 AM