N-words in Black Stand-Up Comedy: A Linguistic Reclamation


Nadia Athali(1), Aris Munandar(2*)

(1) Universitas Gadjah Mada
(2) Universitas Gadjah Mada
(*) Corresponding Author


In the United States of America, the stand-up comedy community consists of comics from a diverse range of ethnicities/races, one of them being African American (black people). Among this particular group, the use of the N-word has been prominent throughout the years. Although commonly used as a slur, the N-word becomes an interesting discussion, as its function within stand-up comedy is not solely derogatory when uttered by black comics. In this research, the functions of the N-word used by black comics in stand-up comedy are investigated. Moreover, its relation to linguistic reclamation is also examined. The data were obtained from a YouTube channel named Laugh Factory in the form of videos by black comics aired in 2020. The analysis of the functions was conducted by categorizing the functions of the N-word. In order to relate the functions of the N-word with linguistic reclamation, a qualitative analysis was conducted by using Illocutionary Force Indicator Account to see whether the N-word succeeds or fails to function as a slur. Despite some of the occurrences of the N-word having derogatory functions, the ends of uttering them are not actually regarded as a slur. Moreover, it is discovered that the N-word used by black comics in stand-up comedy fails to function as a slur, proving that there is a process of linguistic reclamation with the N-word being non-derogatory.


black people; N-word; slurs; reclamation; stand-up comedy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22146/lexicon.v9i1.72804

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