BEDFORD -- What's in a name? Sometimes more than we think.
A teacher at Bell Manor Elementary school in Bedford found that out the hard way this week after she let one of her sixth-grade classes name themselves -- well, let's just say it starts with a J, and is a euphemism for the N-word.
The teacher said she'd never heard the word before. When a concerned parent reported that the word was a slur, the teacher apologized and took down the sign.
Of course, Google would have taken about half a second to tell her the word was an offensive word for a black person.
But to be fair, there are lots of expressions we hear every day that have offensive origins.
Did you know a "peanut gallery" was originally a name for the cheap-seat balcony seats where African-Americans were allowed to sit during the segregation era?
How about "no can do"? That apparently started out as a mocking imitation of Chinese immigrants.
"Long time no see" was the same story, but for Native Americans...
Gypsies would be offended if you said you'd been "gypped" by a bad deal.
And if you've ever called someone a "basket-case", you were borrowing an offensive term for a World War I soldier that lost all four limbs and had to be carried around.
How offensive are these expressions today? Hard to say. There are plenty who would say that avoiding those terms would be too politically correct.
But there's a line there somewhere, right? And based on the reaction and apology in Bedford, the J-word is on the wrong side of that line.
Guess the moral of the story is, if you've never heard a word before, give it a quick Google search before putting it up in a classroom.