I belong to a small online writers’ group that is made up of everything from bestselling authors who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars to newbies who struggle for every sale and consider it a good day if they sell ten books. The one thing we have in common is that everyone there is committed to turning out the very best books they possibly can and is both willing to share what they know and are grateful to learn from the others in the group. There is not an “artist” in the bunch.

In a discussion yesterday I discovered that I’ve apparently slipped behind the times yet again. Who knew that the word “thug” is now a racial slur? One of my author friends tells me that it has evolved from a description of a violent criminal to a reference to the "thug life" in inner cities. He told me that when someone calls a black man a thug, it’s supposedly code for the N word.

This really doesn’t surprise me, because it seems like every day somebody comes up with a new way to be offended. If you so much as open your mouth to speak, or touch a keyboard, there’s a damn good chance you’re going to step over some imaginary line and onto someone’s overly sensitive toes.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time and energy to keep up with all this political correctness our society seems to have a need for. Everything can upset somebody. If you say somebody is fat, people who are overweight might get offended. If you call someone a punk, it means he was somebody’s homosexual bitch in prison. If you say thug this week, the inner city types are not being respected. I don’t care.

Here’s the way I see it. I write in the English language. I don’t write ghetto-speak, or gangsta, or whatever is cool today. I write English. If people who read the English language have a problem with what I write, they don’t have to read it. I write my books for my audience, not for some hoodlum, excuse me, gangsta, excuse me, thug. My books have cops and thugs in them, and fat men and women, and ugly people, and childless couples, and old people and young people.

You see, that’s what writing is all about. Telling the stories of people. Some of those people are pretty and some of them are ugly, some of them are talented and some of them louts, some of them are noble and some of them are evil. If I’ve done my job as an author you will love some of them and hate some of them. Because if I’ve done my job, they comes across as… people.

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27 Comments on Thugs, Punks, And Fatties Too!

  1. Gary Hauptman says:

    Isn’t it amazing how many ways people find to be offended? My 71 year old aunt just reamed a repairman because he said he had given her a senior discount. She let him know in no uncertain terms that she is middle aged! Seniors are 80 and over.

  2. June Dennison says:

    I am a high school teacher in the Philadelphia area and I have to leave the house at 6 a.m. this cold nasty morning to drive 45 miles to a half day conference on language we are not supposed to allow in the classroom. Looking over the worksheet we were given it seems that among other things we can’t use the term Redcoats when teaching about the American Revolution because no references to color are permitted in a person’s description. Nor can we make any reference to physical description that might single out an individual for ridicule. ANY reference? Who knows what somebody will decide is offensive anymore? I love teaching but I’m ready to give it up because of the time we waste away from the classroom doing things like this.

  3. Reynald Fortier says:

    Well said Nick,keep up the good work. Also agree with June, totally crazy decision are being made and the ones that try to challenge are or will be prosecuted.
    No more freedom.

  4. George Stoltz says:


    Did your aunt then pay the full price?

  5. I am a writer as well, Nick and if lucky, sell one book a day :-). That said, in all my years of wordsmithing, I have never seen language change so fast. But as a student of language, I know that thought is changed by words, not the other way around. I do agree that the grammar police are taking things to extremes like June says. I have seen us change from calling women ‘girls’ and I like that. I have not been a girl for 60 years. I have no problem, however, being called a senior citizen at 72. I just read about thug the other day and was stunned. Same with punk. I didn’t know that until right now. The disability world is changing and I like that too. Some of the new labels are a bit difficult to use after all the years of saying retarded and now we need new words for that. I understand why, but it’s hard to learn those new word patterns. The old ones are comfortable for us. But we will change or at least the next generation will. And I suppose that’s good.

  6. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    Ummm, did you check to see what the new definition of lout was before you used it today? :>)

  7. Fred Hammer says:

    Hmm, and then the old, retired English teacher pops in and says: “Nick, you really need to take another look at the second sentence of your first paragraph.”

  8. Steve Malcolm says:

    Well Nick,

    I only have one problem with your writing…there’s not enough of it. I need another book. Each one in the Big Lake series got better and better. I’m not a writer. Not a wordsmith. Not a teacher. Just a guy that likes a good story…and brother I like your stories. Keep them coming please!

    Oh…and since we are of the same age and history…I understand your language. Just keep on keep’n on!

  9. George says:


    This is scary. Kellie had to listen to my rant on this very subject yesterday.

    I know a guy with a PhD in Law and makes tons of money. He refers to nearly all his friends of any color the N-word. Yet if someone calls him the N-word he is highly offended.

    Some people are taught from an early age to be offended by nearly everything and it shows.

    I like being an old white guy. I don’t have to spend one second of my life being offended by anything. I have a thick Southern accent so many try, but it isn’t happening. Who would listen anyway?

    To each his own. I try my best to be respectful but hey if I offend you get over it.

  10. Edward says:

    AMEN! To many get offended to easy! Political Correctness is nothing but Bull$hit!

  11. Susan Pezzano says:

    Hi Nick! A few years ago when I was still working, I got “written up” for using the expression “Indian giver” to someone in the office who gave me some candy and then took a piece back. We laughed. It was overheard by a woman who was part American Indian, and she was offended. She reported it. Seriously, I never ment to offend anyone, but that was an expression I used since a child. HOWEVER, if I reported everyone who used the expression “Jew him down” to get a better price on something, there would be a file cabinet full of write ups. When people use that terminology, I don’t get offended. It doesn’t mean they are anti-Semitic, or ment to offend me (which it doesn’t), it is just an old expression that many people use. You can offend some people by saying the most innocent things. GET OVER IT FOLKS!
    Your Jewish American Princess (JAP) friend, Susan! Lmao

  12. Jerry Criswell says:

    We must never forget. Political correctness is nothing but censorship.


  13. Dave W5 says:

    “There is not an “artist” in the bunch.” ???

    Is that a mistake or just to get to the Artists!..

  14. Shannon says:

    Amen yet again Nick!!!

  15. Tony says:

    Good grief this sounds like an Academic Senate discussion at the college.

  16. Nick Russell says:

    No Dave, it’s not a mistake. Way too many writers consider what they do to be some high art form and most of them never sell a book. In fact, few even finish one because they are too busy being in love with their talent. When it comes to marketing a book, they are far above that. That’s shallow and crass. They expect the world to find them and adore them, and are frustrated when it doesn’t happen. I tell those types that being an artist is fine if you can afford it, but I’m a whore. I do it for the money.

  17. Linda Sand says:

    That’s one of the things I love about your books. Your “characters” are real people. I can see and hear them.

  18. Debra Argosy says:

    We are being coerced into linguistic submission. We (the media, the internet, Hollywood–the powers that be?) accomplish this by the powerful force of shaming. Being told not to use the word ‘thug’ is smarmy to the point of masochistic. Political correctness run amok is a blight to open communication—and probably contributes to the enormous amount of nasty anonymous online comments to news articles. People feel suffocated so they lash out but don’t dare sign their names.

    Obsessive PC is constantly reinforced by ubiquitous online articles entitled ‘What Not to Say to…’ sick people, new mothers, the unemployed—name any group and there’s an article listing what you mustn’t say. Fear of offending is now an inextricable part of our culture, so let’s fight back by being unafraid to use our amazing language in all its glory! (with an eye open to mobs with pitchforks of course…)

  19. Art Johns says:

    Fred needs to get a life.

  20. Bill Daines says:

    Wow and I called fellow officers punks and thugs and still consider some as delinquents and bullies :) Bill

  21. Bill Daines says:

    but never fatty !!

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Some of us have kin who have really taken the ball and run with it, on this subject…I mean, they LOVE being able to be offended at any small insignificant thing…they LOVE being able to get away with not being able to be pleased by anyone!! BAD thing for our culture. I was rereading some old letters and themes by some of my kin long gone from this world. What a time they lived in…so much more respect and caring for others and not totally focused on ME, ME, ME like today!! One wishes sometimes to be able to return to such a time!! And it is truly sad that so many harmless words have been made into even nasty words today…sad!!

  23. Jodie S. says:

    IMHO good manners require that you not say things that offend people. Good manners also require that you not have a chip on your shoulder.

    As a member of a minority (Jewish) myself, I have experienced how words can hurt. I have learned to consider intention and context before I decide to get offended.

    Moreover, there is a difference between ignorance (Jews are greedy and miserly) and hate (Jews are an inferior race). Ignorance is a teachable moment. Hate is irrational.

    @Susan Pezzano: A few weeks ago someone told me that it is politically incorrect to call a person of our religion a “Jew”. The word “Jew” is supposed to be somehow demeaning! I was flabbergasted! Have you heard this?

    Jodie S., proud to be a Jew and a Jewish American Princess

  24. Dave W5 says:

    Nick thanks for the explain and I know what you mean now. My sister is an Artist and sells at a high end and has for many years now. She used to say in the old days that she had to paint what the public wanted not what she wanted to paint for the same reason, Money. She said the most money she would make was when and after she was dead and gone. Luckily she didn’t have to wait quite that long but she is now 71 and making good money but also about to retire, LOL


  25. Barb says:

    My husband and I don’t play the (political correctness) game well.
    The first I ever heard that calling someone a “thug”, was from the Seahawk’s player Richard Sherman.. I like the man fine, but that’s just plane crazy.. While we don’t ever use the N word, we certainly call a “thug and thug’ Nothing to do with race.

    The whole political correctness thing has gotten worse in the last few years, and that’s a shame..

  26. Allan says:

    Political correctness has really run amuck. Word usage is ever-changing and hard to keep up with. I don’t even try to keep up with the latest pop-culture language which no one can keep up with. I never use the N word but the race language has changed from negro to colored to black to Afro-American and many of that race would rather go back to black. We have a black President that is really half black but many would probably be upset if he was called a mullato which used to refer to a mixed race. I am not trying to bring out race or the President , only that language can really be a mixed up affair. Can anyone keep up with it? Does anyone really care all that much? I say be yourself , but be respectful

  27. Carol Burt says:

    Fred, that second sentence gave me pause, too. But after looking at it further and consulting E.B., I think Nick is (not are) correct!
    Which reminds me of something that happened to me a while ago. I posted to one of the forums in which I’m active, and another person there corrected my grammar. But danged if she didn’t misspell grammar. LMBO
    I love Bad Nick, but he & Bad Carol might not agree on everything. But mostly.

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