Use mention

There’s a difference between using a word:

>e.g., The Chicago Tribune’s Editorial page is full of morons.

and mentioning it:

>Some have said that Tribune’s editorial page is written by morons.

In the first example, moron is used to slur them. But sometimes words are only “mentioned”–as if the person saying it put quotes around them (people often do this with their hands). The person in the second example is reporting the words of another. Often times, however, people confuse this. Like, for instance, the Chicago Tribune Editorial page. They write:

>Imus, who crudely described the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” said rappers call women “worse names than I ever did.”

Imus used that phrase. Rappers, on the other hand, don’t “use” the phrase (and worse). They mention it. Rappers know the basic logical distinction that evades the smart guys at the Tribune:

> He and his defenders saw a double standard. Why, they asked, was he canned for uttering words that rap stars like Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Ludacris or comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Carlos Mencia use with impunity?

>Snoop Dogg, a founding father of gangster-style rap, fired back in language not quite suitable for a family newspaper. Imus was misinformed, said Mr. Dogg. When rappers use “ho,” he said, they are referring to gold-digging schemers, not college athletes. It was a distinction many people would find, well, ludicrous.

That last line is a joke, I think. In any case, the distinction is obvious to anyone who can tell the difference between an insult leveled at some basketball players by an aging radio personality and an oftentimes ironic description of a fictional world of a rap artist.