But the epithet itself still has sports fans and commentators scratching their heads. Allegedly, the officer called Crawford, who is black, “Monday.” Monday? The day of the week? Is this really an insult, and one that has anything to do with race?
It turns out that the answer is yes—and that it is hardly the only secret ethnic or racial slur in English. Mild-mannered language has long provided cover for vitriolic speech, with everyday words pressed into service to lend a kind of plausible deniability. Such code words require shared recognition among the in-group, while, in principle, leaving the targets of the slurs unaware of the game. In fact, it’s only because the officer was breaking those implicit rules, and allegedly using a “secret” offensive term to address a sports celebrity, that he ended up in trouble—and that the coded use of “Monday” is suddenly out in the open.