“The Power in Words”


By Delbert H. Rhodes

A need of answers initiates the search. I am not degreed in Anthropology, Onomatology or Anthroponomastics, but simple research does not demand the requirement. Here, the assertions are mine as related to the information on file. The following discussion occurs because of what I found.

While researching my (accordingly) actual paternal last name, I encountered some interesting correlations. My last name, if the man who, accordingly, shared his DNA had admitted paternity, is Kornegay; pronounced, Corn-egg-ge, or Corn-na-ge (1. short first e, quiet a, hard g, y pronounced like long e; 2. long a, long e). Some pronounce it as “Corn-uh-gay.”

This form is an American corruption of the German word, “Kornegger,” or “Field man,” or “Field hand.” Kornegger has many variations, i.e. Kornegie/Kornegi/Kornegay/Carnegie, as in Carnegie Hall and others.

“Nigger,” an ancestral haunt; a horrid term borne by Black Africans from the days of Slavery, I believe, actually evolved from “Kornegger,” Linguistically commingling with the southern tongue, and with added inflections (for insult, degradation), the dialect of the early south evolved the shortened version, “Nigger,” sometimes identified as “Field Nigger.”

Niggard and Niggardly, according to the Free Online Dictionary are from the period 1325–75; Middle English nyggard=nig niggard (< Scandinavian; compare dial. Swedish nygg; akin to Old English hnēaw stingyScandanavian terms referring not to generous or stingy, and are sometimes viewed offensively because they sound like the degrading term Nigger. Another similar term Niggle, according to the Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus, Third Edition, page, 533, interprets as (Noun) minor worry or criticism or,  (Verb) (to) slightly worry or annoy. Easily, one cannot help but realize that without accurate interpretations, similarly sounding words insert negative feelings into the hearts and minds of uninformed listeners.

 Anyone working the fields  and in the German tongue is a “Kornegger.” Nothing is negatively inferred, until or unless the intention is to make a person believe and feel that he or she is personally less than someone else; Non-Human, Slaves were (even) less than livestock.

Naturally, as historically used by southern, and other Whites the negative and hurtful term became a part of Black life. Unfortunately, and ignorantly, the vulgarity perpetuates as culturally used by southern and other Blacks without regard to the denigrating effects from earlier times.

This ubiquitous negatively ingrained behavior becomes evident whenever Blacks and especially young Blacks socially use the term positively “in passing.” In this way, the word “Nigger” offers no historic hurt; the sting of social stigma does not exist. Seemingly, some Black people casually use the term as a kind of “kinship.”

I suggest that the bonds formed by this type of kinship are less the loving pat on the back and more the humiliating slap in the face.

The power in words is immeasurable: whenever used to hurt a word, which simply indicates that a person works in the fields or is a Farmer, could inflict a lifetime of unendurable pain; and as historically witnessed in Black life, even death.

Actually, I think that the German word “Kornegger” is a beautiful term. Who knows, maybe one day the word would once more evolve, affecting a positive sociocultural change. After all, working the fields, or farming could never be wrong; in fact, everything about it is absolutely RIGHT! 🙂

Copyright © 2013 Delbert H. Rhodes