Have you come across terms like "nibba" and "Karen" in the comment sections of social media platforms? The fluidity of language is most clearly visible on the internet. The unrelenting rules that define a classroom and professional environment are absent on online platforms allowing people to play around with words as much as they want.

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While new slang words crop up all the time, existing words are regularly reinterpreted, respelled, and reappropriated so that they can be used in an “appropriate” way on the internet. But the question arises, how appropriate is appropriacy? Words are pumped with meanings, histories and biases. Are netizens losing tracking of these nuances? Let’s find out!

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Nibba is a reworking of the word nigga, and nigga is a variant of the N-word reclaimed by many black speakers. While black speakers reappropriated and proudly claimed ownership of the words that were once used to dehumanize them, white speakers were made aware that they may not use the word. The word nigga can be used by black people to address one another or to refer to another black person. However, it is out of bounds for people of any other race, especially white people, since the word is loaded with the experience of an oppressive and hierarchical past.

The respelling nibba came into being in an effort to transcend this meaning and history. It was created to allow white people to use the word on the internet. While it has connotations of the African American gangster culture, the effort to instill appropriacy into nigga has failed miserably. Unfortunately for proponents of the term, a simple adjustment of the spelling could not make the word politically correct. This is because they forgot to take into account the history behind the word.

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The word nigga has held different meanings among different communities, historically as well as today. Hence the right to decide who gets to use the word nigga and who doesn’t falls on the Black community. Nibba will continue to be inappropriate and offensive because a change in two letters cannot wash away centuries of systemic oppression that exists to this day.

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Karen on the other hand is a word meant to call out racism and inappropriate behaviour. It usually refers to any angry, entitled, middle-aged white woman who is usually also racist. The term gained traction in the last year as videos of such privileged white women targeting members of minority communities started making rounds on the internet. The name Karen is viewed as a generic term for female babies born in a certain generation. It was the fourth most popular name for girls born in the 1960s. In short, this is a slang word that came into being with the explicit intention of calling out and shaming inappropriate racist behaviour by women.

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But how appropriate is this word? What does the internet call an entitled, racist, aggressive man? While many names like Richard, Kevin and Ken were floated around, none of these really picked up. The fact that a racist, white male is usually just called male Karen suggests that this supposedly appropriate word may be informed by some of our inherent biases. The misogynistic behaviour at play here has often been brushed aside so as to not overshadow the calls for racial justice.

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But I am of the opinion that halfway measures never yield true appropriacy. What do you think? It’s definitely something to mull over!