On the problem of neeger in Estonian



The so-called political correctness is nothing but Anglo-American linguistic colonialism, which is unpalatable to Estonians who, as members of a small nation, usually value their mother tongue. Yet in May 2012 Urmas Sutrop, director the Institute of the Estonian Language declared, ‘In Estonian the word neeger is  certainly derogatory. The fact that the current orthological dictionary argues the opposite is a curiosity. The next edition, which is due in a couple of years, will have this note deleted for sure.’ This has caused protest among Estonian intellectuals. Euphemisms, including those used as substitutes for neeger, are known to arise from linguistic taboo. In the cultural-psychological view, taboo is caused either by the fear of the dead or the fear of animals (James George Frazer). According to Wilhelm Wundt a tabooed object embodies the previously suggested fear of this or that demonic power. Sigmund Freud, however, spells out the following diagnosis: ‘The phenomenon of taboo bears a huge similarity to the fear of touch, délire de toucher. True, as a rule the neurosis has to do with sexual touching.’


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