[Vwoolf] Nigs, nicknames, & racial slurs

Kristin Czarnecki Kristin_Czarnecki at georgetowncollege.edu
Sat Feb 9 11:59:18 EST 2019

Yes—and it’s the nickname Clare Kendry’s husband gives her in Nella Larsen’s novel Passing.

Sent from my iPad

On Feb 9, 2019, at 11:35 AM, Anne Fernald via Vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>> wrote:

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When Stuart first sent this email, the subject line made me gasp. It was too close to the racial slur. Which made me wonder: might Lord Cecil's nickname be connected to the racial slur? Given the frequency of references to "n*** brown" as a descriptor of clothing in the teens, twenties, and thirties, I think it might. I looked in the OED, and yes, "nig" is short for the racial slur:
nig, n.3
colloq. and regional (usually derogatory and offensive).
Thesaurus »
Categories »

  = nigger n.<http://www.oed.com.avoserv2.library.fordham.edu/view/Entry/126934#eid34821604>   (in various senses).
c1832   T. D. Rice Jim Crow x   De Nigs in ole Virginny Be so black dey shine.
1840   Daily Picayune (New Orleans) 20 Sept. 2/2   Two little nigs..had a most scientific set-to at the corner.
1860   R. F. Burton Lake Regions Central Afr. I. 137   He resents..the name of ‘Nigger’, or ‘Nig’—Jupiter Tonans has heard of the offensive dissyllable..but has he heard of the more offensive monosyllable which was forced upon the abbreviating Anglo-Saxon by the fatal necessity of requiring to repeat the word so frequently?
1879   Mrs. A. G. F. E. James Indian Househ. Managem. 43   Treat your servants as fellow-creatures, not as ‘nigs’—a term too often applied..to the Indian natives.
1916   J. B. Cooper Coo-oo-ee xvi. 245   He never wipes the glass slobbered over by dozens of dirty nigs!

As to why Lord Cecil might have that nickname, short of consulting the full bio, I can only conjecture. Was he darker complected than his family members? Was it because of his colonial work in Egypt? Or, like lots of nicknames, did it come from some more obscure bit of personal history.

In any case, watching this conversation unfold simultaneously with some pretty sorry racial incidents of blackface here in the U.S. and it struck me that it would be disingenuous to pretend that Lord Cecil's nickname, Nigs, was unconnected to the history of racism.


On Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 3:57 PM Peter D L Stansky via Vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>> wrote:
Thanks Stuart for the mention of the Rudikoff book as I was involved with its publication.  It was published by SPOSS, the Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship and copies should still be available on Amazon at very low prices. SPOSS also published my William Morris to Sergeant Pepper which contains a section on Bloomsbury.

Best to all, Peter

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From: Vwoolf <vwoolf-bounces+stansky=stanford.edu at lists.osu.edu<mailto:stanford.edu at lists.osu.edu>> on behalf of Stuart N. Clarke via Vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>>
Sent: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 1:03:27 AM
To: Barbara Lounsberry
Cc: vwoolf at lists.osu.edu<mailto:vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] Nigs

Ref. to Lord Edward Cecil, L1 189.  For anything to do with the aristocracy & VW, it’s worth starting with a rarely referenced, but excellent book, RUDIKOFF, Sonya, "Ancestral Houses: Virginia Woolf and the Aristocracy" (1999).


From: Stuart N. Clarke via Vwoolf
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 4:24 PM
To: Barbara Lounsberry
Cc: vwoolf at lists.osu.edu
Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] Nigs

Making the grenadier connection is even more persuasive.  I think we might be able to search VW’s connections to the Cecils to find how close (as it were) she ever got to Lord Edward. Kitty Maxse’s husband Leo was a brother of Lady Violet, Lord Edward’s wife.

Stuart (whose mother was born in Lasswade)

From: Barbara Lounsberry
Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 4:14 PM
To: Stuart N. Clarke
Cc: vwoolf at lists.osu.edu
Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] Nigs


Thank you for your illuminating (and, to me, very persuasive) information on Lord Edward Cecil and Edward Pargiter of The Years.

Your reference to Lord Cecil and the Grenadier Guards makes me wish to add that I believe Woolf associated Kitty Malone in The Years with Sir Walter Scott (Woolf's own diary "father").  Kitty's married name is Lasswade (name of Scott's home) and she much prefers the north over Oxford and London.  Kitty is call "The Grenadier."  In the British Army, a grenadier was a member of the first regiment of household infantry.  Grenadiers were specially selected foot soldiers in elite units who threw grenades.  Thus Woolf links Kitty to both Scott and to female household battle.

Hope this adds.  No doubt you can add more to this.

Barbara Lounsberry

On Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 4:31 AM Stuart N. Clarke via Vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu> wrote:
You will recall that that’s Eleanor’s nickname for Edward Pargiter in “The Years” (mentioned 4 times).  Apparently, that was VWS and HN’s name for Nigel (see CUP edn 420 39:13).  But why should that be a nickname for *Edward*?

I’ve found a more persuasive inspiration for the nickname.  The family called Lord Edward Cecil, Nigs, although I don’t know why.  Perhaps if I looked up a biography, I would find out.  Anyway, see here from the ODNB:

Cecil, Lord Edward Herbert Gascoyne- (1867–1918), army officer and administrator, was born in London on 12 July 1867, the fourth son and sixth of eight children of Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, third marquess of Salisbury (1830–1903)<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.oxforddnb.com_documentId_odnb-2D9780198614128-2De-2D32339&d=DwMF-g&c=aqMfXOEvEJQh2iQMCb7Wy8l0sPnURkcqADc2guUW8IM&r=k1OoytuRmrU4MiIwbI-7ElFohPGR5Vr0JxDyMjG9DsI&m=qyC0djSWGOis3bIRcrZ5AQTDuN0kuzUn86jxKSbvXVU&s=_Dm347sgnWdyczaPMUmROSSnrAT212c-y14fJSB-GsM&e=>, prime minister, and his wife, Georgina Caroline (1827–1899), daughter of Sir Edward Hall Alderson and his wife, Georgina Drewe. Known to his family as Nigs, and to friends as Ned, Edward Cecil was educated privately and at Eton College, and was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards in 1887.

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Anne E. Fernald<http://www.fordham.edu/info/24101/anne_fernald> (she/her)
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Special Advisor to the Provost for Faculty Development
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