Re: Black goo: Never mind.

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Wed, 3 Sep 1997 12:19:20 -0700 (PDT)

> I have now received strong suggestions, from two separate and distinct
> individuals, that the term "black goo" is prejudicial to persons reflecting
> certain spectra of light....

Don't let a few intolerant listeners prevent you from using simple,
clear language. Empathy is a handy skill--I have nothing against it--
but language is far more imporant. In the English language and
American culture, "black" carries the connotations of death, and its
use in that context is easily understood and entirely appropriate.
If I have any objection to the term it is linguistic, not political:
in the Chinese language and culture, for example, white is the color
associated with death, so the term "black goo" won't translate well
into that culture.

If you are simply coining nonce terms for particular species of nano-
creatures under discussion to simplify the discussion, then I find it
quite a useful and powerful tool to associate them with something like
color, which is a simple physical phenomenon we can relate to, and has
useful connotations in the laguage in which the discussion is taking
place. If you mean the terms to be more permanent, then perhaps longer
and more specific names would be better.

An association that might have been deliberately offensive enough to
justify avoiding in speech would have been to use groups of people
directly, rather than indirectly by association with color (e.g.,
Nazi Goo, Swiss Goo, French Goo), but colors are just colors. Even
in this case, it would be better to use offensive-but-clear terms if
they really were clear than to risk ambiguity. Tolerance is an
obligation /only/ of listeners, not speakers. The obligations of a
speaker are clarity and honesty above all else.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC