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The term reappropriation is an extension of the term appropriation or cultural appropriation used in anthropology, sociology and cultural studies to describe the reabsorbing of subcultural styles and forms, or those from other cultures, into mass culture through a process of commodification: the mass-marketing of alternate lifestyles, practices, and artifacts.
A reclaimed or reappropriated word is a word that was at one time pejorative but has been brought back into acceptable usage, usually starting within the communities that experienced oppression under that word but sometimes also among the general populace as well. (The term "reclaimed word" more often implies usage by a member of the group that is referred.)
Reclaiming or reappropriating a word involves re-evaluating a term that is or was, in the dominant culture, used to by a majority to oppress various minorities of the same culture, such as "queer", once seen as pejorative but now reclaimed and used as a self-reference by some.
Reclaimed words differ from general reclamation outside of language because of their deliberately provocative nature. In addition to neutral or acceptable connotations, reclaimed words often acquire positive meaning within the circles of the informed. Outside the community, such transitions are rare. As such, the use of these terms by outside parties is usually viewed as strongly derogatory. For some terms, even "reclaimed" usage by members of the community concerned is a subject of controversy; for example, there is considerable debate within the transgender community over attempts to reclaim the term "tranny", usually applied offensively to trans women.
Sex and sexuality
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However, the phenomenon is much older, especially in politics and religion.
In England, for example, Cavalier was a derogatory nickname reappropriated as self-identification, while Roundhead, a Royalists derisory term for the supporters of the Parliamentary cause, is not (it was a punishable offence in the New Model Army to call a fellow soldier a roundhead). Tory (orig. from Middle Irish word for "pursued man" Tóraidhe ), Whig (from "whiggamore" (See the Whiggamore Raid)) and "Suffragette" are other British examples.
In the American colonies, British officers used Yankee, from a term used by the British to refer to Dutch pirates, as a derogatory term against colonists. British soldiers created the early versions of the song "Yankee Doodle", as a criticism of the uncultured colonists, but during the Revolution, as the colonists began to reappropriate the label "yankee" as a point of pride, they likewise reappropriated the song, altering verses, and turning it into a patriotic anthem.
In the 1850s in the United States, a secretive political party was derisively dubbed the Know Nothing party, based on their penchant for saying "I know nothing" when asked for details by outsiders; this became the common name for the party. It eventually became a popular name, sufficiently so that consumer products like tea, candy, and even a freighter were branded with the name.
One of the older examples of successful reclaiming is the term "Jesuit" to refer to members of the Society of Jesus. This was originally a derogatory term referring to people who too readily invoked the name of Jesus in their politics, but which members of the Society adopted over time for themselves, so that the word came to refer exclusively to them, and generally in a positive or neutral sense, even though the term "Jesuitical" is derived from the Society of Jesus and is used to mean things like: manipulative, conspiring, treacherous, capable of intellectually justifying anything by convoluted reasoning.
Another example can be found in the origins of Methodism; early members were originally mocked for their "methodical" and rule-driven religious devotion, founder John Wesley embraced the term for his movement.
Members of the Religious Society of Friends were termed "Quakers" as an epithet, but took up the term themselves.
Race, ethnicity, and nationality
To a lesser extent, and more controversially among the groups referred to, many racial, ethnic, and class terms have been reappropriated:
- "Nigga" or "nigger" by African Americans
- “Wog” by Mediterranean Australians.
- "Paddy" by Irish Americans[not in citation given]
- "Peckerwood", originally black slang in the South for poor white trash, reclaimed by white prison gangs
- "white trash", a racial slur referring to poor white people, reappropriated by some as a cultural symbol and badge of pride
- "cripple", "crip", "gimp" by people with disabilities.
- "Impressionists" In 1874 during their first independent art show, critic Louis Leroy penned a hostile review of the show in Le Charivari newspaper under the title "The Exhibition of the Impression-ists". In particular he used the painting Impression, soleil levant by Claude Monet to ridicule the painters for their lack of seriousness preferring to paint "fleeting impressions of the moment" rather than allegorical or ultra-realist themes.
- Stuckism is an international art movement founded in 1999; its members produce figurative art. Tracey Emin, one of the Young British Artists known for their conceptual art, accused her then-boyfriend of lack of imagination or reach, of being "stuck". He took on the term.
More generally, any kind of community can reappropriate words referring to them:
- "Smoggie", originally a derogatory term for people from the North East England town of Middlesbrough, in reference to the town's notorious industrial pollution, now commonly used in self-identification.
- "Culchie", derogatory term in Ireland for people from rural areas of the island, increasingly used for self-identification since the late 20th century.
- Dysphemism treadmill, the process by which offensive terms can become acceptable without deliberate intervention.
- Croom, A.M. (2011). "Slurs". Language Sciences. 33 (3): 343–358. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2010.11.005.
- Godrej, Farah (April 3, 2003). "Spaces for Counter-Narratives: The Phenomenology of Reclamation" (PDF). Paper prepared for the Midwest Political Science Association Meeting. University of Indiana. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-10-25. Retrieved July 25, 2011. Citing Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 1991)
- "queer". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2014.
- Queer Nation (June 1990). "Queers Read This".
- Cedar (November 10, 2008). ""Tranny" and Subversivism: Re-reclaiming "Tranny" (or not) part 1". Retrieved September 23, 2010.
- Cedar (January 8, 2009). ""Tranny" and Subversivism: Re-reclaiming "Tranny" (or not) part 2". Retrieved September 23, 2010.
- Snyder, Mark Daniel (February 3, 2009). "Tranny". Queer Today. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
- "Trademark Office says no to Dykes on Bikes". National Center for Lesbian Rights. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18.
- "Facing Fury Over Antigay Law, Stoli Says 'Russian? Not Really'". The New York Times. September 8, 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-09-27. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
- "Get used to it - meaning and origin". The Phrase Finder. Archived from the original on 2016-09-27. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
- "We're here. We're Queer. Get used to it". NewsLaundry. August 15, 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-09-27. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
- Anonymous (1911). "Cavalier". Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (11th ed.).
- Worden, Blair (2009). The English Civil Wars 1640–1660. London: Penguin Books. p. 2. ISBN 0-14-100694-3.
- Okrent, Arika (5 Nov 2013). "Mystery Solved: The Etymology of Dude". Slate. The Slate Group,. Retrieved 10 Aug 2015.
- William E. Gienapp. "Salmon P. Chase, Nativism, and the Formation of the Republican Party in Ohio", pp. 22, 24. Ohio History, p. 93.
- Pollen, John Hungerford (1913). "The Society of Jesus". Catholic Encyclopedia. 14. New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- Peschier, D. (21 June 2005). Nineteenth-Century Anti-Catholic Discourses: The Case of Charlotte Brontë. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-230-50502-5.
- Stevenson, Angus (19 August 2010). Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 940. ISBN 978-0-19-957112-3.
- Aikio, Annukka; Vornanen, Rauni (1982). Uusi sivistyssanakirja (in Finnish). Otava.
- March, Francis Andrew (1906). A Thesaurus Dictionary of the English Language Designed to Suggest Immediately Any Desired Word Needed to Express Exactly a Given Idea. Philadelphia, PA: Historical Publishing Company. p. 1089.
- Atkins, Martyn (2010). Discipleship... and the people called Methodists (PDF). The Methodist Church in Britain. p. 9. ASIN B006OA0XRU. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2015-03-15.
...to be a ‘Methodist’ was originally a term of ridicule because of the zeal and rigour with which they pursued a life of holiness and sought to be the best disciples of Christ they could.
- Kennedy, Randall (18 December 2008). Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. xvii. ISBN 978-0-307-53891-8. OCLC 838223786. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- Clark, Andrew (12 October 2005). "A bad word made good". the Guardian.
- For 18th century example of effort at such reappropriation in Ireland, see this example here
- Allen, Irving L. (1983). The Language of Ethnic Conflict: Social Organization and Lexical Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-231-05557-4. OCLC 469875261. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- Carceral, K.C.; Bernard, Thomas J (2006). Prison, Inc: A Convict Exposes Life Inside a Private Prison. Alternative criminology series. New York: NYU Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-8147-9954-3. OCLC 748855316. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- "Peckerwood | Hate Symbols Database | ADL". ADL. Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- Griffin, Larry J.; Hargis, Peggy G.; Wilson, Charles Reagan (1 July 2012). The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture:. Volume 20: Social Class. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 370. ISBN 978-0-8078-8254-2. OCLC 852835385. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- Galinsky, Adam; Schweitzer, Maurice (29 September 2015). Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both. New York: Crown Publishing Group. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-307-72025-2. OCLC 919338995. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
In a movie (8 Mile), Eminem declares, 'I'm a piece of white trash; I say it proudly.'
- Baglieri, Susan; Shapiro, Arthur (2012). Disability Studies and the Inclusive Classroom: Critical Practices for Creating Least Restrictive Attitudes. New York. Routledge. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-415-99372-2. OCLC 768335668. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
- Cigainero, Jake (October 29, 2014). "Dating a Seminal Painting Paris Exhibition Traces Origins of Monet's 'Impression, Sunrise'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-11-15. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
- McKeown, Sarah (22 June 2009). "Ich bin ein Smoggy: reclaiming regional pride". Macmillan Dictionary Blog. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- Lawson, Helen (21 March 2013). "Janoaworramean? Frustrated Teesside mother pens 'Smoggie dictionary' with translations into Standard English to help others understand her". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 September 2013.