According to a new YouGov survey on behalf of Metroxpress newspaper, about one quarter (24 percent) of the Danish population prefers to use the word ‘neger’ (loosely translated as ‘negro’) when describing someone of African heritage.
And is particularly men who are at ease with using the word, with 29 percent preferring it, compared to 19 percent of women.
“I’ve forced myself to use the word ‘black’, whereas I used to use the word ‘neger’,” Jørn Lund, the head of the national language committee, told Metroxpress newspaper.
“It’s good if people don’t want to hurt others, but you shouldn’t criticise others if they find the word natural.”
It is particularly the elderly who have had trouble bidding ‘neger’ goodbye, while just 15 percent of Danes under 30 use the word.
Our choice of political party also has an impact. While just 4 percent of Radikale voters use the word, 23 percent of Socialdemokraterne voters and almost 50 percent of Dansk Folkeparti (DF) supporters prefer it.
The survey also showed that the word afrikansk (African) was the word most Danes (35 percent) prefer to use to describe someone of African background. Some 23 percent prefer the word ‘sort’ (black), 9 percent liked ‘farvet’ (coloured), 8 percent prefer none of the above and 4 percent didn’t know.
The use of the word ‘neger’ in Denmark has been on the agenda in recent days after DF politician Søren Espersen called President Barack Obama the “første ‘neger’ president”.
Blasting Espersen on Twitter, fellow politician Jeppe Kofoed translated the word ‘neger’ as ‘nigger’ in a tweet in English, and Espersen was forced to nearly cancel an upcoming trip to Washington as a result.
“DF would be happy to pay for an English course for Jeppe Kofoed,” Espersen later wrote on Twitter. “He just needs to sign up.”
“I understand that many people are angry about the usage of the world ‘neger’. I am sorry if people feel insulted. That was not my intention.”
Kofoed is not the only one to favour that translation though, and it remains a contentious point in Danish society.