Bigot, The All-Purpose Insult

By Maeve Maddox

Bigot, a word usually associated with religion, has expanded its meaning considerably. Its original sense was “a person who shows excessive religious zeal, a religious hypocrite.” Here are some (unedited) examples of its current use:

Obama: Close-Minded Economic Bigot

Sailor Calls Romney a ‘narrow-minded bigot’

Jehmu Greene: Portrait of Black Bigotry

Liberals are some of the most bigoted people in America

There are simple minded bigots on both sides of the isle.

Kirstie Alley Slams Leah Remini as a “Bigot” After Anti-Scientology Remarks

Elisabeth Hasselbeck flung a hefty tar ball in the direction of Joy Beharon Tuesday morning’s The View Hot Topics segment, calling the carrot-topped co-host a ‘bigot’.

[Arne] Duncan’s a bigot, a bully, an elitist and a foot-in-mouth fool all rolled into one

The word bigot has been in the language since the Middle Ages. Of uncertain origin, it entered the language from French and quickly became a term of abuse. In modern usage, bigot, together with its other forms, bigotry and bigoted, is not confined to religious contexts. These definitions from the OED and Merriam-Webster illustrate the expanded usage.

bigot: noun. a fanatical adherent or believer; a person characterized by obstinate, intolerant, or strongly partisan beliefs. –OED

bigot: noun. a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: a person who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance. –Merriam-Webster

Bigot is a strong word, especially useful in today’s close-minded social and political climate. Its force is diluted by speakers who employ it as a knee-jerk term of abuse to fling at anyone who merely voices a different opinion on some matter.

opinion: a view held about a particular issue; a judgement formed or a conclusion reached; a belief; a religious or political conviction.

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5 Responses to “Bigot, The All-Purpose Insult”

  • opsimath

    Hello again, and thank you for another interesting post. It often surprises me to find old words with quite particular meanings to be pressed into service for things they don’t relate to.

    On some of the ‘infomercials’ being shown here in the UK, ‘decadent’ and its cousins is often used when describing jewellery or scents, implying a meaning of sophistication; one presenter, whom I am sure didn’t realise just what he was saying, even referred to ‘those decadent women’, presumably those sophisticated enough to want to buy the item he was selling.

    As we have all observed before, our language is changing, and many of us would say for the worst, at alarming speed; it is to those of us who try to write and speak carefully to apply the brakes wherever we can.

    Thank you once again.

    opsimath

  • Maeve Maddox

    As someone is sure to comment on the misuse of “isle” in one of the examples, I’ll put this link here: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/aisle-and-isle/

  • Stephanie

    “A knee-jerk term of abuse to fling at anyone who merely voices a different opinion on some matter.”

    Well said.

  • ApK

    With “bully” diluted to mean “any child who doesn’t want to play with your child” and “sexist” and “racist” and “homophobe” each diluted to mean “anyone who speaks aloud the idea that people might be different from each other” and with “terrorist” on it’s way to being diluted to mean “anyone whose political goals disturb the current administration,” I can’t get too worked up over “bigot.”

  • venqax

    I have to agree. Racist, sexist, homophobe, bigot, they all seem to have lost their teeth in today’s climate of hypersensitivity. All are used as lumpish accusations tossed at someone who disagrees with the tosser.

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