Child Protective Services, 1877 edition


Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Glyph says:

    Word Perfect’s spell checker flags “negro.” …I’m not one to ordinarily complain about political correctness

    Is it “PC”, or is that word now so archaic that even racists don’t usually use it anymore?

    If the word has fallen so far from contemporary useage that assuming a possible typo is a reasonable inference, I can see that being the reason to flag it, rather than PC concerns about offensiveness…what replacement alternatives did the program suggest? If it was something like “negate”, then that might tell us that “negro” is just so uncommonly-used now, that flagging it as a possible typo makes sense.

    If the program suggested “African-American” or “black”, then that’s a different story, though one I don’t necessarily have a problem with (if I was unknowingly using offensive language, I might want my spellchecker to tell me, before I embarrassed myself).

    If I type the word into Google, it lists the word as both “dated” (explanation 1) and “offensive” (explanation 2); and the Ngram useage over time indicates that it’s used far less now in the 21st century than almost anytime in the 20th.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      If the program suggested “African-American” or “black”

      Wait…is that a thing? Spell-checkers that suggest lexicographically dissimilar synonyms?Report

    • It’s an interesting theory. As an experiment, I put in “phaeton” (uncapitalized). So far as I know, this word has no current use except as a proper noun, and the spell checker will flag proper nouns that aren’t capitalized. The spell checker was perfectly happy with it, despite the phaeton being long-obsolete tech.

      For what it is worth, in baseball history circles it is perfectly standard to talk of the “negro leagues.” They had not yet gotten that organized in the era I mostly study, when the discussion was of “colored clubs.” This was the polite term. The Word That Shall Not Be Spoken was also found, with the context often making it clear that the word was offensive. (The claim that it was simply the neutral word is a Big Lie.)Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Worse happened during the 19th century when it came to the treatment of children.Report

  3. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    “Word Perfect” or “WordPress,” and why shouldn’t whichever remind the writer, who may very well be speaking English, and to Americans, as a second or twelfth language, that using the word “negro” may create… static?

    (And, while we’re asking questions, why don’t you answer my emails and why is your avatar still the mystery ordinary gentleperson?)Report

    • Word Perfect: I’m old school. You can have my Reveal Codes when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

      Because this is not a spelling issue. If they want to put in a problematic usage function, which I can turn on or turn off as I see fit, that would be fine. When they start bundling other stuff into the spell check and don’t let me turn that other stuff off, the utility of the spell check function is reduced.

      I tried to turn on the avatar, but clearly was unsuccessful. The follow-ups have gone into the “respond to once I either figure this out or give up” category, which can be a black hole. Sorry about that. I’ll give it another shot. (Oh, and Addie Joss? Completely the wrong period for me. He’s one of those young fellers.)Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Word Perfect: I’m old school. You can have my Reveal Codes when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.

        When I worked for the state legislature, I had to learn Word Perfect because the whole bill drafting/tracking system assumed it (and no, the General Assembly was no more interested in spending money to keep their own mission-critical software system up to date than they were any other of the state’s mission-critical software). Some of the documents I inherited had been reformated over and over, for several years, by multiple analysts. I spent part of one summer inter-session removing cruft. I admit to some curiosity about what an MS Word document might look like if it had Reveal Codes. I suppose I could find out in newer versions, where the whole thing is XML underneath.Report

        • When we get paper interrogatories I scan and OCR them. As anyone who has done this knows, the results are disappointing, particularly with regard to formatting. I finally figured out that the way to do it is to paste the resulting crappily formatted text into Notepad, and from there into Word Perfect. Yes, you strip out all the good formatting doing this, but you strip out all the bad, and the bad is very very bad, making this a net win.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

        Richard Hershberger: Sorry about that. I’ll give it another shot.

        Please do… I’d really like to just cross the item off the list – so we can move on to categories and footnotes and many other wonderful things.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Frankly, this story ended a lot better than I thought it would. (and better than it might have ended in St Louis of the present era)Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Does Wordperfect recognize Spanish?


  6. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Interesting. If someone were to unthinkingly use “negro”, as opposed to quoting something that used it, it would definitely seem a bit off to me. The reason being that it denotes a concept that is kind of a granfaloon, as Kurt Vonnegut would put it. It puts things together that had no real reason to be put together.

    But yeah, it seems a bit weird to put it into spell check. But then, nothing useful ever remains pure.Report

  7. Avatar George A. Chien says:

    Microsoft Word flags it with a green squiggle, as a grammatical error, and suggests that it should be capitalized.Report