Spanish slurs and stereotypes for Mexican-Americans in the USA: A context-sensitive account of derogation and appropriation

  • Adam M. Croom Universidad de Pensilvania
Palabras clave: slurs, appropiation, stereotype lift, stereotype threat


Slurs such as spic, slut, wetback, and whore are linguistic expressions that are primarily understood to derogate certain group members on the basis of their descriptive attributes (such as their race or sex) and expressions of this kind have been considered to pack some of the nastiest punches natural language affords. Although prior scholarship on slurs has uncovered several important facts concerning their meaning and use –including that slurs are potentially offensive, are felicitously applied towards some targets yet not others, and are often flexibly used not only derogatorily to convey offense towards out-group members but also non-derogatorily to convey affiliation with ingroup members– the literature remains largely focused on slurs that typically target African Americans (nigger), male homosexuals (faggot), and sexually active females (slut). Since no account of slurs that typically target Hispanics or Mexican Americans has so far been proposed, here I offer the first systematic and empirically informed analysis of these that accounts for both their derogatory
and appropriative use. Importantly, this article reviews over a dozen Spanish stereotypes and slurs and explains how the descriptive attributes involved
in a stereotype associated with a slur can contribute to the predication of certain content in the application of that slur toward its target in context. This
article further explains how the psychological effects of stereotype threat and stereotype lift can be initiated through the application of a relevant slur towards
its target in context as well.