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Which words do you own?–Miami Rhapsody June 11, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, fiction, Haiku, libertarians, linguistics, luck or time, narrative, vocabulary.

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a somewhat weekly basis. There is an interesting (to some) analysis of the most common words here.  And there is some discussion of method here and here.]

There is a potentially offensive word below.  You have been warned. 

I just finished reading Carl Hiaasen’s Lucky You, a novel about two people who play the same lottery numbers and win the same Florida Lottery jackpot worth $28m.  One is a black woman in her late twenties who is working as a veterinary assistant in a small town.  The other is a racist living in the Miami area who wants to use the money to finance a militia group, which he will use to fight the UN/Nato/Jewish/race-mixing invasion force he believes is preparing in the Bahamas.  So the guy steals the woman’s lottery ticket.  The story’s about how she gets it back. 

I’ve been thinking about the story a little for a number of reasons, but the most pertinent of them is that the racist character in Lucky You can’t utter the most prominent word in the vocabulary cloud below.  When he was in his early teens he spoke this word at home, once.  Then his father, who never used corporal punishment, but for this one exception, beat him with a razor strop.  After dad was done with him, his mother took him inside the house and washed his mouth out with a well know abrasive tub and tile cleaner containing bleach.  Consequently, he has this gagging reflex whenever he even thinks this word.  The only other member of his militia, his accomplice, teases him about this. 

Carl Hiaasen uses this word in the book a number if times, which seemed daring to me, in a weird way.  Hiaasen makes this word come from the mouths of racist bad guys, and some of the story attempts to explore racism and bigotry (but not so much that it disrupts the comedy).  Nevertheless, it seemed daring to me because I don’t think I have ever spoken this word, though I often curse like a sailor.  My parents never beat me for anything, much less using this word.  But I grew up in a family of Libertarians who pretty much ignored skin color.  And I was sheltered enough in white suburban California that racial issues were never prominent in my experience.  Racism in the news always seemed somewhat unreal (well, a lot of the news did).  It was only later, studying history in college, that I began to see racism as a real and contemporary problem.  Well, that’s how sheltered I was.

Say the word as an insult and it brands you a stupid bigot.  Say it ironically, or even analytically (as a commentary on language, for example) and it is too easy to be misunderstood, or come off as a priveledged white intellectual (which is what I am, basically, but I try not to flaunt it).  It was an easy word to avoid, until this post.

Anyway, the blog under the microscope today is Miami Rhapsody, a truly fascinating read published by Yvette.  I recommend subscribing.  She won’t fill your inbox as often as many others, and seems to write only when she has something interesting to say.  Her word sample runs from July 28, 2006 to June 1, 2007–every word she posted up to that point.  There were only 20,000 words in the sample, so the numbers will look a little low in comparison to other blogs examined recently (where the samples tend towards 30,000)  Yvette added 510 words.  There were 3,608 different words in her sample, a little above the norm, I think.

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Yvette but not at all by any of the other 23 blogs sampled thus far.

And here’s those words in a font called Floribetic:

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words.  The left lobe consists of words that were new in the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle lobe consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Yvette used them in the sample.  And the right lobe consists of only two words that everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that Yvette did not.  She doesn’t seem to care about money or looks.  Refreshing, isn’t it?

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm.

You professor’s racists!
The louder nuns not potted
are the nuns you mow.

“Professor’s racists.”  I kinda like that, although I’m not sure what it would mean.  A group of brown-shirted nerdy bigots?  Something in the phrasing seems like a badly-translated Maoist slogan of some sort.  And “mowing the louder nuns” also puts me in mind of those jokes we told as a kid: What’s black and white and red all over? 

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Yvette!

Next up: two more Floridian blogs, A Mom, A Blog, and the Life In-Between, then “Klotz,” as in “Blood,” then Silverneurotic, who is not from Florida, if I remember correctly.


1. Dayngr - June 12, 2007

My people, my people… I love my people. They are all great reads. Can’t wait to see how the rest turn out.

2. Yvette - June 12, 2007

Thank you SO much! Not only is this utterly fascinating, but I am also enamored with my haiku.

My most humble apologies to your readers for my use of the “n” word. The fact that I believe it *should* cause offense is the context in which I have used it, and the post that contains the word speaks for itself, I feel. I’m very excited to see your next analyses!

And thanks to you, too, Dayngr, for bringing this to my attention. Such fun for my inner wordsmith!

3. caveblogem - June 12, 2007


You are very welcome. I like that Haiku a lot, too. Regarding the n-word, I don’t think that any apology is necessary. Your post about the word was very interesting. Readers may find it at http://miamirhapsody.blogspot.com/2006/10/i-am-nigger.html.

Once in the mid 1990s I toyed with the idea of telling people that I am gay, starting conversations with that, similar to your idea, but very different, of course, in that I’m not gay. I thought it would spark some uncomfortable discussions about homophobia. I didn’t have the guts to actually do it, though.

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