Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-7332
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9919



Slurs are pejorative terms for groups of people, relating to for example their nationality, their sexual orientation, etc. While there is a lot of discussion about slurs, they are typically characterized in relation to a neutral noun. In this article we will explore this distinction between neutral and offensive group labels. By means of a small experiment, we show that slurs are indeed considered to be more hurtful than their corresponding ‘neutral’ nouns, but that at least some of these nouns themselves are experienced as more hurtful than adjective noun combinations. We suggest that the results are in line with analyses in which the degree to which a term is considered to be hurtful is based on its inherent (i.e. conventionalized) properties, as well as the context in which it is used. We suggest that such analyses could be extended to nouns, such that terms can be neutral or non-neutral to various degrees.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): expressive meaning; group labels; offensive language; slurs
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