Oxford Etymologist on the Word “Squaw” — Indigenous Etymologist Needed!

Leaving the legal world for a moment, we offer a link to a very strange defense of the use of the word “squaw” by the Oxford Etymologist Anatoly Liberman (here). We could be wrong, but this article seems to be a classic case of an academic wearing blinders, or worse, an etymological ideologue.

In short, Liberman concludes that the etymology of “squaw” is that the word simply means “woman,” and so therefore cannot possibly be an epithet. He mocks advocates for changing place names to eliminate the use of the word.

There are several problems in the argument, especially the tone of Liberman’s writing (just read the article — the part about squirrels is baffling), but we’ll focus on just the most obvious problems.

First, the Oxford Etymologist’s etymology is incredibly superficial, and downright ethnocentric.

We’d like to see an indigenous etymology of this word, which is undeniably an epithet no matter the so-called “science” behind it. Assuming the scholars upon which Liberman relies are correct (and we have no reason to doubt it) and “squaw” derives from an eastern Algonkian language, then merely concluding the word means “woman” is nowhere near conclusive. It is our understanding that the vast majority of words in Anishinaabemowin, the language of many Michigan Indians and an Algonkian language, are verbs. What this means is perhaps the Massachusett word from which “squaw” derives is actually a verb. So-called nouns in many Indian languages are actually verbs, so that the word that non-Indians say means “woman” very possibly means something along the lines of “person who does something.” And likely that “something” will let us know if the word is intended as a respectful word, or not. We don’t see from the sources available online (e.g., here) a serious attempt to provide a proper etymology of the word.

Regardless of the etymology, there is a second important reason to reject Liberman’s position.

Second, Liberman’s arrogant conclusion that “The moral of this episode is that etymology is a science and in serious situations should be left to specialists” deserves a response. Liberman seems angry that there are modern movements afoot to chance place names, blaming it all on Suzan Shown Harjo’s 1992 appearance on Oprah for some maddening reason, as if no one in Indian Country had any idea that “squaw” was an epithet before 1992. Liberman charges:

This is how misspent political zeal turned squaw into an ethnic slur. Place names have been changed in Minnesota and Arizona, Utah did not stay away from the campaign, and there is little doubt that the stone will keep rolling.

Liberman says if you don’t believe him, check his sources. One source, William Bright, from which Liberman derives much of his argument and all of his rhetoric, explains pretty persuasively how and why the word “squaw” — whatever it’s etymological origins — became the ugly, nasty epithet it certainly is today. From Dr. Bright’s paper:

The English word ‘squaw’ belongs to a rather special semantic set. It may be significant that the semantic Indian set ‘buck, squaw, papoose’ is unusual among terms for ethnic groups, in that it has separate lexical items to distinguish male, female, and young; this pattern seems to group Indians with animals (e.g. horse: stallion, mare, colt) rather than with other human groups (cf. Italian: Italian man, Italian woman, Italian child). Note that the word ‘buck’ is otherwise used to refer to various male animals, especially the deer.


Nevertheless, historical examples can be cited. Just as feminists have shown that American men have often imposed a ‘virgin vs. whore’ dichotomy on women, so Green 1975 notes that 19th century American writers tended to classify Indian women either as ‘Indian princesses’ or as ‘squaws,’ the latter being routinely characterized as ugly and whorish. Thus James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, refers to “the crafty ‘squaw’ … the squalid and withered person of this hag” (1983:239). The memoirs of Lt. James W. Steele (1883:84) referred to ‘the universal ‘squaw’ – squat, angular, pig-eyed, ragged, wretched, and insect-haunted.’ It would seem appropriate to search not only ‘literary’ works and personal memoirs of the period, but popular ‘dime novels’ as well.

Ironically, neither Bright nor Liberman are impressed by this for some reason. Bright demonstrates that “squaw” fits right in with other terms used to dehumanize American Indians, and gives powerful examples in canonized American literature how the word did exactly that.

At least Bright acknowledges that place names with “squaw” in them should be changed.

Liberman, on the other hand, is on a quest to deny that there is anything offensive to “squaw,” and that efforts to change place names should be halted. In that regard, perhaps above all others, he is utterly wrong.

36 thoughts on “Oxford Etymologist on the Word “Squaw” — Indigenous Etymologist Needed!

  1. James P. Lynch July 9, 2009 / 7:27 am

    Putting contemporary political correctness aside, how can the the southern New England Algonquian term “suncksquaw” be derrogatory? A literal translation of this historically validated term means “female sachem”. There were numerous incidents in Southern New England and Long Island of woman (“squaws”) assuming important leadership (“sunck”) positions.

    Lets stop this obsurd revisionism.

  2. Matthew L.M. Fletcher July 9, 2009 / 9:48 am

    Part of the problem, of course, is that we can’t put “contemporary political correctness aside.” No one can reasonably deny that the word “squaw” has been used for centuries in a debased fashion. That’s not “absurd revisionism.”

    I’m no etymologist, but assuming you’re correct about “suncksquaw,” what do you get when you take away the “sunck”? And why was the “sunck” taken away in the usage? The etymology doesn’t answer the question. I think it needs to be answered, not derisively shunted aside with cranky rhetoric.

  3. Rob Schmidt July 9, 2009 / 10:02 am

    Liberman doesn’t seem to acknowledge that whatever the word’s original derivation, its meaning can change over time.

    Anyway, good posting. I’ll add it to my information on “squaw” at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/squaw.htm.

  4. Gerald Fisher July 9, 2009 / 11:05 am

    The word that I have heard that squaw comes from is Iroquoian. Sagissquaw meaning the female genetilia.

  5. Karen Lessard July 9, 2009 / 12:29 pm

    i am Mohawk/Abenaki and a student of the Abenaki and other Algonquian based languages. A Massachusett language dictionary written in the 1600s lists “squaw” as meaning woman and “papoose” is child or baby. In Abenaki, the suffix “skw” or “squa” is added to denote a female. The etymological history is undeniable; however, so is the history of the non-Indian use of the word “squaw”. As “boy” is used to demean African American men, “squaw” is used against American Indian women. Terms such as these are used to dehumanize others… just as is pointed out above from Dr. Bright’s paper, classifying humans as animals allows the dominant society to own slaves and to steal land from the original inhabitants, and it eases any guilt because “they aren’t really human”. The origins of the word aside… “squaw” is not used in our modern society to honor Indian women any more than sports teams “honor” us – even though it’s a real Indian language word, unless you are speaking to me in Massachusett, i don’t take too kindly to being called “the S word”.

  6. Justin Ruggieri July 9, 2009 / 1:44 pm

    Mr. Lynch, as someone who has studied linguistics extensively, I’d like to add my two cents.

    Words mean what contemporary users determine them to mean.

    If you don’t believe me, try using the “N” word in a conversation with an African American person. If they get upset, or take offense at your use of that word (regardless of context), just explain to them that it really is just a corruption of the latin root word “negr-” which simply describes the color ‘black’. That should clarify things and make everyone feel better, right?
    (If you can’t read the sarcasm in this, please consult a speech pathologist).

    Or, on a more personal level, I am half-Irish (and damn proud of it), and I happen to take great offense whenever I hear someone use the term “Mick”. Am I supposed to deny that emotion simply because I know that the origin of that term is the Gaelic patronymical device “Mhic”, which translates as “son of”? Don’t count on it.

    The bottom line is this – if a word is used to describe a specific group of people, and someone within that group takes offense at the use of that word to describe them, the use of that word in that context becomes patently offensive.

    It’s not about the origin of the word, it’s about having respect for the people who it purports to describe.

    I hope this helps you to understand why ‘squaw’ is not acceptable to so many.

  7. Sarah Deer July 9, 2009 / 3:11 pm

    A couple of preliminary thoughts:

    First, I am currently doing research into the history of sex trafficking and forced prostitution of Native women in the United States. The most productive search term I have found for locating specific historical accounts of this form of predation is “squaws.” That is the term that white men used to justify commodification of Native women’s bodies. It has been astonishing how many more references I find when I plug in that term into search engines as oppose to “women.”

    Second, reclaiming words can be an important (albiet controversial) part of progressive politics for some communities — “queer” and “bitch” are two examples. But it has to be on our terms, not Dr. Liberman’s.


  8. Jacki Rand July 9, 2009 / 4:37 pm

    I recall, but can’t find, the research of a Micmak or Penobscot (I think) woman who supported the renaming of various moutains, lakes, etc in the New England region. This might have been as long as ten years ago. Her research would be unacceptable to this serious scientist because she is a common Native woman. I’ll keep looking for her work.

    Research aside, the term “squaw” has been used to denigrate Native women and justify violence against them. It doesn’t really matter what the Algonquians meant by the term. What matters is that historically white men and women adopted it perhaps initially following the irritating and offensive, habit of naturalizing Native people. But it morphed into something else. “Squaw man” was always a derogatory term among Whites. So, how can that be a derogatory term and “squaw” not be a derogatory term?

    I conclude that White people have a stake in refusing changes when it comes to sports teams, mascots, and so on. It helps to keep Native people down and in their place. “Redskins,” “squaw,” and so forth help to maintain the hierarchy. Sometimes this resistance to change, annoyingly laid out as a principled resistance to “political correctness,” is rooted in the persistent romanticism that is the other side of the colonizer’s coin. I’ve dated White men who actually confessed to fantasies of taking me off to live in a cabin, and of course in nature.

    These people will never change. Never. They’re stakeholders in the colonial, racial hierarchy project. They will never ever recognize our humanity.

  9. Rob Schmidt July 10, 2009 / 3:43 am

    Marge Bruchac’s position (the one referenced by Jacki Rand) is a defense of the word “squaw.” I doubt many Native women would agree with her.

    Some quotes from Bruchac:

    Some American Indian activists have written to me saying, “well, YOU can use the word if you want, but WE consider it obscene.” This labeling of my indigenous language as obscene is a racist statement. It makes no sense for Native people to cling to and accept a wrong translation.

    For most of the historic era, “squaw” was a simple, non-pejorative descriptive word, a classic example of the same Pidgin speech that gave us “powwow,” “tipi” and “mocassin” as generic terms, universally applied to all Native American peoples. It was widely used by both Native and non-Native speakers, and its non-pejorative meaning is amply documented in literally thousands of American and English documents and dictionaries, and both oral and written records of Algonkian languages, spanning the time from the 1620s to the pre-1970s.

  10. Rob Schmidt July 10, 2009 / 3:49 am

    I presume Bruchac would agree with Liberman that no one considered “squaw” offensive until the “politically correct” era of the 1970s or Harjo’s “Oprah” appearance in 1992. But William Bright’s paper proves this position is disingenuous at best.

  11. James P. Lynch July 10, 2009 / 6:30 am

    Mr. Fletcher seems to believe that once a word or term has been corrupted by persons of another culture, it should be banned. Would not the proper remedy be to instruct his readers of the proper historically valid meaning of theword squaw and let them correct this misinterpretation? Squaw, or being one, should be a term deserving of respect.

    Mr. Fletcher’s position reminds me of a ditty that was recorded by the satirest Tom Lerher back in the1960’s:
    “When correctly viewd, every thing is lewd. I can tell you things about Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz, he was a dirty old man…” Really?

  12. Môlsem July 10, 2009 / 9:04 am

    The sound -skw is in at least some Algonquian languages simply a noun ending designating the noun as female. It applies to humans and to at least some animals, and is no more obnoxious in its source than “her” or “she” or “-ette”. In some of those languages the
    However, in USE at places further west the sound became at the very least dismissive and disrespectful. Hence it is perfectly proper to end its use in place names.

  13. James P. Lynch July 10, 2009 / 9:20 am

    Mr. Ruggieri, my point would be that “Mick” is not derrived from the Gaelic language but was a mid twentieth-century American slang usage. The same with “nigger”( a word that the African-American community uses quite frequently amongst themselves), Negro (derived from the Spanish language) was not part of any African native dialect. Squaw was part of the native proto-Algonquian language. Rather than relegate this term to the realm of the unspeakable, educate the public to its proper understanding. Changing the name of a Arizona Mountain (Squaw Peak) does not solve the problem. Educating society as to it real meaning does. If someone takes offense to the word, it is due to their own ignorance of its true meaning.

  14. Sarah Deer July 10, 2009 / 5:30 pm

    I don’t want to speak for Prof. Fletcher, but I don’t see a suggestion of “banning” certain words. I don’t think that is possible – it would be akin to banning an idea. Renaming a landmark does not make the word go away.

    What I would hope, though, is that people would understand how a word has been used to insult, degrade, and humiliate people – regardless of its origin.

    I’m not an etymologist, but isn’t the use and context of a word relevant to its meaning? Lawyers use Latin terms in ways that are not necessarily consistent with the literal meaning or origin. Seize the body?

    I also have to ask if those who oppose removing the word “squaw” from landmarks are willing to put in equal time and effort to supporting language revitalization for Indian communities.

  15. Sarah Deer July 10, 2009 / 5:34 pm

    As an aside, I’m wondering if you’re familiar with how Native people are portrayed in Peter Pan (particularly the Disney film) – or with L. Frank Baum’s position on Indian matters?

    I found your quote from Tom Lerher interesting in this context.

  16. Rob Schmidt July 11, 2009 / 4:57 am

    “Squaw” is like “Negress” or “Jewess.” There’s no need to rehabilitate the word in English because there’s no need for the word. The proper word for an Indian woman is “woman.”

    Calling a woman “squaw” merely puts her in a separate class of people. And centuries of context tell us that this class of people is considered inferior.

    Bright nailed this point when he compared “buck, squaw, papoose” to “stallion, mare, colt.” The notion that Indians are the only ethnic group that needs a term for man, woman, and child is patently absurd.

    Liberman’s etymological nonsense also ignores the fact that there were and are hundreds of Indian cultures, most of whom did NOT speak an Algonquian language. What’s his rationale for applying an Algonquian word to all Indian women?

    Using “squaw” as a catchall label obscures the many differences between Indian women of different cultures. For that reason alone, we should relegate it to history books and not try to resurrect it.

  17. Jacki Rand July 11, 2009 / 11:35 am

    If you read the entire Bruchac piece she ends with a proposal not to keep “squaw”, but in the renaming to use the use the complete indigenous terminology as opposed to the shortened “squaw”. And whether you agree with her conclusions or not, she laid an indigenous etymomology which is not negated by her final proposal.

  18. James Crews July 11, 2009 / 2:36 pm

    You are correct in that the word spoken of is listed as being from New England Algonquian Groups. The word has been corrupted over the years by people who seek to label others.

    I am also familiar with the Iroquoian word “Sagissquaw. However, As spoken by the Indigenous People of New England and Long Island New York, the word is written as “SQUA”, and simply means a woman.

    It is sad that so many words that are a legitimate part of various Tribes and Nations, have been so corrupted, that it could cause those speaking their own language to avoid using the word for fear of offending.

    It is highly improper to generalize Indigenopus words, however, you cannot prevent a Tribe or Nation from adopting words from another, such as “Pow-Wow” which was originallly written as Pau Wau and originates from the Indigenous People of New England and Eastern Long Island.

    I developed the TRAILS Language Education Software, and I would not advise the Algonquian People that I have worked with to avoid utilizing one of their own words in general conversation, just because others have corrupted it.

    So much dialog is misdirected and unneeded. It seems that more effort should be directed in aiding Indigenous People in “Revitalizing” their languages. Try helping for a change.

    James Crews

  19. Luis July 11, 2009 / 11:28 pm

    If squaw is just an Algonquin-derived synonym for woman, as we’ve been told, then why isn’t it applied to all women? Or if it is meant to be ethnically specific, then why is it being used in Arizona among people culturally and linguistically as distinct, if not more, than European cultures we have no trouble differentiating?

    At the end of the day, you simply can’t mask the fact that squaw was used in a specifically derogatory fashion to name those places. The United States is (or was, in many cases) also full of places called “Dead Nigger Creek,” or “Nigger Nate Grade,” among others. I can assure you that the people employing either of those words at the time didn’t bother to occlude their intentions behind apologia like the one we see above.

    They knew exactly what they meant, and it should be just as clear to us all today.

  20. Rob Schmidt July 12, 2009 / 7:35 am

    I read Bruchac’s whole piece, including her clarification of her previously muddled position.

    For starters, her claim that “For most of the historic era, ‘squaw’ was a simple, non-pejorative descriptive word” is arguably false.

    She may think people oppose “squaw” because its etymology makes it offensive. I say they oppose it because it has BECOME offensive–because it categorizes Indian women as second-class citizens.

    More to the point, Bruchac backtracked dramatically between her initial posting and her clarification. She went from:

    “Many ‘squaw’ place names recognize ancient places where women did traditional activities. Without a very good understanding of history, it is a mistake to erase the lives, stories, and voices of the women whose presence was acknowledged by the original naming.”


    “Out of respect, we can cease using ‘squaw’ as a generic term for Native women, just as we can cease using ‘brave’ as a generic term for Native men.”

    In other words, when challenged by critics such as Matthew Fletcher, she changed her position. She moved to the position I stated above. That suggests why we should criticize those who defend “squaw.”

  21. Kirsten Meyer July 12, 2009 / 9:45 am

    Debating the original etymology of the word “squaw” misses the point. It seems reasonably clear that “squaw” is a derivative of something originally meaning, or connotated with, the essence of womanhood. The issue is whether or not “squaw” is an appropriate and respectful thing to say today. Regardless of its etymology, a word may be respectful for one person to say in one context, yet very disrespectful for another person to use in another context. Meaning changes (sometimes drastically) over both space and time.

    In the case of the word “squaw”, it has been well-documented that it has been commonly used over centuries as a derogatory term for Native women, to humiliate them, objectify, belittle and degrade them- very often by white males in particular. If it was ever said at one point in time between a mother and daughter with respect and love, over the centuries it took on the weight of a power differential between Native women and white men, and it evolved to something else. In the context of that specific relationship, interlaced with the reality of American history that includes rape, slavery, genocide, and general misery inflicted on Native peoples by white men and their institutions, it becomes highly inappropriate for non-Native Americans to use the term “squaw” in reference to living people. In fact, I can’t think of any instance where it would be either necessary or appropriate for a non-Native to use the term “squaw”. With regard to place names, there are other issues there, such as the disempowerment of Native peoples by taking their land and calling it by new names instead of the names they knew those places by, and to then label a mountain or valley with the name “squaw,” can be taken as a further “F*#k you”.

    Debate of the word “squaw” is about power and respect. Those who wish to own it and use it regardless of how many people may say it hurts and offends them relish the power they hold and have no respect for the validity of others’ perspectives. If you are not a Native woman, then why would you be so invested in what “squaw” means and insist on clinging to its usage? There are plenty of words out there, and no reason for a respectful person to use words that offend. No reason aside from their wanting to stubbornly cling to their vestiges of power.

  22. bdsista July 14, 2009 / 4:12 pm

    Being African American and Native American, I get so tired of the white supremacist attempts to use language to continue to oppress people and deny them the rights to self identify and if they so choose change the identifiers. It was not until people got the S**t slapped out of them or beat up until they realized that the N word was not going to be casually accepted in conversation. I propose that the next time someone calls you the S-word, you pop them in the mouth, like my mother did, when you spoke disrespectfully. No more polite discussions, just a slap upside their lips and perhaps actual physical pain, will help them correlate the emotional and psychic pain they inflict on others by your racist insensitivity.

  23. NEJ Carlson July 15, 2009 / 12:42 pm

    Ummm…did you read the last big paragraph of Liberman’s post? Did you read any of the paragraphs?

    FTA: Compare nigger (which, like Negro) means simply “black”), pickaninny (perhaps from Portuguese; the original meaning is approximately “a small one”), and zhid (a slur for a Russian Jew, probably from Italian giudeo, from Latin judaeus “belonging or pertaining to Judea”). All of them are racist terms despite their innocuous etymology.

  24. NEJ Carlson July 15, 2009 / 1:04 pm

    I didn’t find the place in Liberman’s blog where he advocates applying the word squaw to all Native women. Could you point it out?

    Liberman’s point is that squaw was corrupted and place names were changed based on an etymological argument. That argument was always based on faulty etymology. All of the PC ridiculousness that followed was therefore unwarranted on etymological grounds. Other words that he cites (nigger, zhid, and villain) illustrate that proper etymological reasoning doesn’t always redeem them.

    Also, your analysis of the Bruchac piece is inattentive at best and horrible at worst. She doesn’t backtrack at all. If I were she, I would be pissed.

  25. J P Maher July 19, 2009 / 8:12 am

    “Dynamite words”. Use with care, even intelligence. Are Negress, Jewess (Judith, Esther) derogatory?… How about lioness, tigress, princess, empress? I’m 100% mick. Dear me, I just dissolve in tears when some WASP calls me that? No word is intrinsically one or the other. PCretins (etymologically “christian”) don’t understand what the French call “mots affectifs”. Affect can go either way, positive or negative…. An insult can become a boast. “Square” was intended as complimentary in 1900, as an insult in 1950. In either epoch the word could be turned about, in defiance of the other’s intent. Take “Protestant” e.g. intended by the Vatican once as derogatory, but taken up as badge of pride by the target population. For the reverse, names like Bright, Albright, Fulbright are often the butt of jokes. (PCitizens: remember jokes?) Hooray for Prof. Liberman.

  26. John Cowan September 1, 2009 / 2:06 pm

    Liberman nowhere says that squaw is not a racist term today: indeed, his first sentence tells you he’s talking about ethnic slurs, of which squaw is certainly an example. He is instead mainly concerned to discredit the claim that the English word originated from an Iroquoian rather than an Algonquian language, and that in that language it meant ‘vulva, vagina’ rather than ‘woman’.

    I think he’s wrong to say that squaw didn’t become a derogatory term until the 1990s, but he’s an etymologist, not a lexicographer. Furthermore, it’s hard to tell the difference between a derogatory term and a neutral term for a despised group of people.

  27. Alison G. February 18, 2010 / 12:21 pm

    James Lynch is just making it up as he goes along. “Mick” is not an American slang, but “spick” is what Americans used for new Spanish immigrants, copying the Protestant English insult for the drunken Irishmen. Nigger is extremely offensive and Black Americans use it as an insult (only within their own close community, i.e. friend to friend, or in music). Just as Irishmen use the term “mick,” but only among friends! Right about the word “negro” and was used quite often by writers during the Harlem Renaissance until it fell out of favour. Let’s get back to basics here. Black is black, not negroid or anything else. Woman is woman, not squaw or bitch or c**t, or anything else. The truth is you cannot use the word “squaw” without offending people. Etymological arguments aside, why would you want to be offensive? Or is this some sort of misogynist power trip?

  28. John Peter Maher February 18, 2010 / 9:08 pm

    Professor Liberman is a scholar, not a netymologist. His remarks on “squaw” are accurate. Those of the netymologists who challenge him are not. They recite. recite, recite. What do they recite? Stuff copied second, third hand and handier from “word-smiths and “word-mavens”. Here’s a source who saw, heard and admired squaws in Buffalo NY when that was the Western frontier before 1850:

    ” To see and hear a bevy of those young squaws or Indian maidens, in the shops or on the walks, talking their Indian dialect in liquid, silvery tones, with their rippling, gurgling laughter, was an interesting sight and pleasant music to the ear. The old squaws, as age environed them, gradually forgot or neglected their nobility of dress, or like civilized matrons, parted with their material jewels and gew-gaws to their jewels of daughters; they substituted the ordinary Mackinaw blanket for their embroidered broadcloth; their hats became ancient like them-…. “– from “Home history. Recollections of Buffalo during the decade from 1830 to 1840, or fifty years since.” Published 1891 by Samuel Manning Welch.

    Go online; search MAKING OF AMERICA.

  29. Val Alex October 14, 2010 / 2:00 am

    This entire conversation is fascinating. How have I managed to live in this culture, to nearly middle age, being so unaware of the derogatory nature of the term “squaw”? I have heard the term used in respectful ways (by teachers, etc.) and disrespectful ways (old movies). Am I truly the only person sheltered within an environment that encouraged us to see Native American Women as beautiful and noble?

    I am sorry to see that a term derived from such a neutral source (if indeed it was derived from the word for “woman”), even when used by individuals with NO motivation to disrespect or insult, could earn them a punch in the face. It saddens me to see how easily and carelessly we wound one another AND how readily we become violently angry with no consideration of intent.

    In my mind, it seems that the word should certainly be abandoned by considerate people if it derives from “vagina”. If not, the Algonquian people should fight to have their term/culture restored to them! And everyone else needs to relax. Of course, I am aware that that is assuming a world full of considerate people and that one derivation will ever be universally acknowledged.

    Does that mean that we are hopeless? I like to think not.

  30. John Peter Maher October 14, 2010 / 9:36 am

    I disagree. Yours truly, Whitey aka Fenian bastard & J P Maher (mick)

  31. John Peter Maher October 14, 2010 / 9:39 am

    Words do not “have” meanings, but we GIVE hem meaning(s). It is always a guessing game. The figure of IRONY is instructive: The bald one of the Three Stooges is “Curly”. Liberman is right.
    (A bitchy woman OR MAN says sarcastically “you’re always right!”)

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