UF Linguistics Expert Discusses The Evolution Of 'Thug'

Feb 26, 2014

It's a word that entered the American lexicon around the early twentieth century. Over the years, "thug" has often been associated with images of criminals, gangsters and mobsters.

But lately, it’s come under particular scrutiny since NFL player Richard Sherman designated it as the “accepted way of calling somebody the N-Word.”

The controversy over the word hit closer to home with the highly-publicized murder trial of Michael Dunn during in which “thugs” and “thug music” were frequently referenced. Even more recently the word was back in the spotlight when Republican Party of Duval County Chairman Rick Hartley referred to some of Mayor Alvin Brown’s recent actions as “thuggish.”

WJCT’s Rhema Thompson spoke with Diana Boxer, a professor and distinguished teaching scholar in the department of linguistics at the University of Florida.

Boxer has authored several books on the subject of sociolinguistics, including The Lost Art of the Good Schmooze: Building Rapport and Defusing Conflict in Everyday Talk.  

She discusses the word "thug," its genesis, evolution and ongoing controversy.


You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.