Ta-Nehisi Coates on Words Having Context

You’ve probably seen this by now, but if you haven’t, go read it:

A few summers ago one of my best friends invited me up to what he affectionately called his “white-trash cabin” in the Adirondacks. This was not how I described the outing to my family. Two of my Jewish acquaintances once joked that I’d “make a good Jew.” My retort was not, “Yeah, I certainly am good with money.” Gay men sometimes laughingly refer to one another as “faggots.” My wife and her friends sometimes, when having a good time, will refer to one another with the word “bitch.” I am certain that should I decide to join in, I would invite the same hard conversation that would greet me, should I ever call my father Billy.

I’ve been trying to think of something illuminating to say about it since I saw it a couple of days ago, but really, I think he covers pretty much everything that needs to be said. Words mean things. Words can mean different things in different contexts, and a big part of the context that words have comes from who is saying them.

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