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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...

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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.

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

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

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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

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> 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.

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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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