This History of the Word Nappy and its Naughty Roots

Nappy and its naughty roots

It’s not hard for me to recall my middle school days, when it was said that I had the nappiest hair of all time. Yet, I still don’t seem to have an issue with the “N word” or the term “nappy”. Words are only as derogatory as we make them out to be, if you ask me.

The roots of the word “nappy” does not have the most pleasant origins, it started out as a term to describe a fuzzy layer of yarn or cloth, but  later on it became a way to further insult African slaves. Even knowing all of this, I am still not offended. If a word with a neutral meaning can be turned into something with a negative connotation why should its reputation be forever tarnished?

For me freedom of speech and the usage of words are the most definite form of self expression. I’ve never been the type of girl to believe in “lady like language” and I don’t believe in using any barriers with my speech. I don’t think that swearing is taboo or certain words are never to be spoken because at the end of the day they are just words and as a people we determine what they do and do not mean.

Ultimately we are the ones who are in control of the words; the words do not control us. If people are offended by the term “nappy” perhaps it is because the people in our own culture use the word so ignorantly. When kids tease other children and use the word nappy as an insult, think about it, they have learned it somewhere, and most likely they have learned it from their household.

Wherever they have learned it from, they were taught or conditioned to believe that “nappy” is a bad thing. For some, the chains attached to this word are hard to break, even though it has been centuries since the birth of its loathsome meaning generation after generation it has been passed throughout our culture. Many women still believe they cannot go natural because their hair is “nappy” or they don’t have “good hair”.

The natural movement is showing women every day that nappy is beautiful and there is nothing wrong with a little kink in your do. Nappy should in my view should be celebrated instead of frowned upon, because kinky is queen ♔.

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Ariane (Editor-in-Chief)

I am Ariane, full-time curly crusader, wife and mom. On this website we offer natural hair products, FREE natural hair tips, style ideas and support. More about my hair journey can be found here.

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5 Comments

  1. jinx says:

    Nappy in the derogatory sense is a product of the 50’s, not slavery!

  2. CHAUDE says:

    I honestly think that if the world nappy was used as a term yo offend, why would you use it? That does not make sense to me. I understand if you take a word in a negative way that is completely your choice but a bad word is a bad word. It doesn’t matter how many times you say and in what context you say it. These words are just horrible and need to be filtered out of our society. I do not think because someone calls me a nigger I all of a sudden and like “oh crap I’m ignorant and uneducated”. It’s where the word came from and the fact that someone feels as if they need to use it. I think that black hair is beautiful and you can have a unique texture but I would never refer to hair as nappy. And would never be comfortable with someone using it about themselves or someone else. You should not be comfortable using words that were created to separate and offend us period. I thought this post was ridiculous and sounded hugely ignorant to be honest. You lacked definite knowledge of our society and how words come to life. But I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. God Bless.

    1. I am a white woman-part Russian Jew, mostly Sicilian and came across this site/post by merely researching the definition of “nappy” for clarification while writing a post regarding the making of stereotypical comments . Nap and nappy are words I grew up hearing referencing either the hand/feel of a knit material OR the term for short, thick, course hair customarily attributed to black people but NOT exclusive to. That term was used to describe similar qualities of hair in both Jew’s and Polish people. Despite whether my parents and grandparents were aware or considered and used the term in a derogatory way, the interpretation that was handed down to me was purely a word to express the qualities of a knit fabric or hair, as stated above. When I read this post I immediately felt this sense of rationality and someone who was comfortable and confident in who they are. I found that heartwarming and refreshing and although I cannot pretend to know exactly what YOU may be feeling, I can say that even with terms or references related to my heritage, I agree with the speakers opinion and find little if any discomfort unless a certain word or expression is made with malice of intent. With all due respect to your feelings regarding the usage of this particular word and others…Please entertain the idea that making others walk on eggshells for fear of an interpretation by you that they do not see is no way to live.

      1. Walking on eggshells? Here’s my issue we all know the origin of the word it is derived from a time when the African was considered a subhuman. It absolutely carries negative connotation which is why so many African-Americans have issues identifying with it. I understand that it crosses cultures but what you need to understand is the extreme difference between those cultures. There is an obvious difference how a black woman with kinky/nappy hair is going to be perceived compared to a European woman with the same kinky/nappy hair. Society is going to be far more welcoming to the latter. Regardless of our hair likeness these issues are so deep rooted and a person who is not of color can never and will never understand.I don’t think it’s a matter of walking on egg shells I would suggest maybe pick another term. Any educated person can identify and articulate the vast differences of curl patterns and textures. I don’t think it’s too much to ask with the 50 years or so of dignity that we’ve been given to understand that the healing of the African-American in American society is an ongoing process. Furthermore maybe just maybe, it’s not your place to determine how someone else should feel. Especially about a derogatory term that was used to insult their entire race of people not so long ago.
        With love,
        Dom

  3. 😛 Great Post !

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