Offendotron and Microagression

By Maeve Maddox

New words for me this week are offendotron and microagression. Both relate to a much-discussed topic: giving and taking offense.

I found the word offendotron in an article by Martin Daubney. I couldn’t find it in either the OED or Merriam-Webster, but the Urban Dictionary defines it:

offendotron: Person offended by anything, however innocuous.

Like offendotron, microaggression has yet to make it into my big dictionaries, but unlike the O word, microaggression already enjoys wide use.

According to an article on the blog Ricochet, the Student Government Association at Ithaca University in upstate New York, “concerned about the problem of microaggression,” is considering the creation of a tracking system “that students can use to anonymously report incidents of perceived bias on campus.”

The word was coined by Harvard professor Chester Pierce in 1970 as a term for “the insults and dismissals” inflicted on black Americans by non-black Americans. Since then, the meaning has been expanded to include sexist and other remarks:

The concept of microaggression has leapt from the shadows of academic writing into the bright light of general conversation, especially in the wake of widely consulted work by professors Derald Wing Sue and Madonna Constantine over the last seven or so years. Microaggressions, as these academics describe them, are quiet, often unintended slights—racist or sexist—that make a person feel underestimated on the basis of their color or gender.—John McWhorter, Time Magazine, March 21, 2014.

Aggression is an openly hostile act against someone. Aggressors are conscious that they are being offensive.

Microaggression, on the other hand, is an act that is not necessarily perceived as hostile by the person who commits it.

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2 Responses to “Offendotron and Microagression”

  • Mara

    Interesting new words. I just learned microaggression this week in a separate article. The other term, offendotron, makes me cringe because I see it as the weapon of those perpetrating microaggression and targeting anyone who speaks out an offendotron. It is a negative term to discredit anyone who does not share one’s point of view in my opinion.

  • venqax

    “Offendotron” is simply an awful word. I recognize the need for it and the intended meaning is, IMO, quite understandable. But the word is horrible. We do have terms like “hothouse flower” and “hypersensitive” and more general ones like “ninny” and “sissy.”

    OTOH, “microaggression” does not work at all. If an act is not perceived, therefore not intended, by its perpetrator to be offensive then it is simply not aggressive; not even micro so.

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