Ari Shapiro, “‘Obamacare’ Sounds Different When Supporters Say It” (NPR Weekend Edition, Mar. 31, 2012)
Linguist Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, says there’s a long history of groups trying to reclaim negative words.
“So for instance, the term ‘queer,’ which is a very pejorative term, in fact was reclaimed by members of the gay community as a neutral or positive term,” he says, “to the extent that now you have queer studies at universities, for instance.”
In politics, he says, whether a term is positive or negative often hinges on outside events.
“During Ronald Reagan’s first term, ‘Reaganomics’ was generally a negative epithet,” he says, “but by 1984, the economy had turned around, and Ronald Reagan in fact embraced the term ‘Reaganomics.’ “