Figure of Speech: meiosis (my-O-sis), the shrinking figure. From the Greek, meaning “shrink.”
Don “nappy-headed ho” Imus finds himself banished from Talkshowland for racially insulting the Rutgers women’s basketball team. As many websites have pointed out for years, this wasn’t the first time. Imus is a card-carrying epithetist.
Take his slur of PBS broadcaster Gwen Ifill. Take his slur of PBS broadcaster Gwen Ifill. She refused to appear on his show, accusing Imus of racism. What, me, a racist? Why, that cleaning lady!
That’s a meiosis, a labeling figure that literally belittles a person or thing. Here in New England we call a lake a “pond.” That’s a meiosis. The flattering trend among clothing retailers to apply a size 8 label to a size 10 dress: that’s a meiosis as well.
Our bloviated, chest-thumping society could actually use more understated language. But when you sling a meiosis at people of color, get ready for a pink slip.
Snappy Answer: “A corpse.”
For more on labeling, see chapter 12 of Figaro’s book.