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There are "things you can't say".[1] You can be right, and your message can be harmless but the way you communicate it comes so close to a cultural taboo button that it requires too much extra effort not to be misunderstood. You just probably shouldn't go there. It will cause misunderstanding. Its kind of like having a thick "cultural accent".

For example, I used to, but do not now, ever use the word "niggle". Its just too much work.

[1]http://paulgraham.com/say.html




Niggardly is even worse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controversies_about_the_word_%2...


A friend of mine got hung up by a vendor because the friend said they were being ``asinine''. (No, it wasn't because they offended at being called stupid, but rather they thought it was a naughty, posterior related word...) Good times.


And the even more dangerous noun form of those words, "Niggler" and "Niggard".


Niggle is a pretty common word. I can't believe it could ever be misinterpreted as 'nigger'.


One of the things that hastened Larry Summers departure from Harvard is the general public's sudden inability to comprehend the difference between average and standard deviation in reference to male/female intelligence.

http://media.swarthmore.edu/bulletin/?p=145


> One of the things that hastened Larry Summers departure from Harvard is the general public's sudden inability to comprehend the difference between average and standard deviation ...

Yes, but I would have said chronic and acute inability. What Summers offered in that unfortunate address was a perfectly reasonable explanation (concisely, same mean value but differing standard deviations), one that has a certain amount of circumstantial evidence and that in no way disparages women's intelligence or abilities, but all that followed from it resulted from innumeracy, not common sense.


It's not a universal American taboo. It's a progressive taboo, and California is a progressive region of the country.




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