What is the worst word in the world?

It can be the naughtiest or the meanest. The filthiest or the most degrading. It doesn’t matter.

For British writer Jon Ronson, the author of Them and The Men Who Stare at Goats, the worst word in the world is “cunt.” And back in the day, he wrote a rather profane and hilarious piece about the day he explained to his young son why the word is a particularly foul one to utter.

For the Ned Flanders set, I would imagine it’s “fuck.” Now, they may not exactly be against the deed in question; they just don’t like to admit that they occasionally engage in such animalistic activities for purposes other than siring children.

For me personally, the absolute worst word I can ever imagine using is: “synergy.” And it’s followed closely by the phrase “paradigm shift.” Any person that uses these two without utter and absolute contempt is a soulless shell of a person whose passing will be morned solely by public relations experts and wannabe venture capitalists. That said, I have a feeling that I’m in the minority here.

If I had to bet, I’d say that when it comes to the majority of Americans the absolute worst word in the world is “nigger.” To utter that word in a public setting is to invite a shitstorm of pain and suffering the likes of which only the unlucky ticket holders sitting in the front three rows at a Gallagher show have ever experienced.

Of course, there is a time and place in which the word “nigger” can be uttered. One, if it’s in a fictional work of historical context, like say Huck Finn. And two, if you’re an African American and you are nullifying the negative power of the word by co-opting it as a term of endearment or something of the kind.

But there is one instance that trumps all other — there is one scenario which can never be challenged: a racist asshole, like say Mel Gibson, has used the word and the only way to significantly call them out for his bigoted bullshit is to let everyone know exactly what the other person said.

In these cases, the use of phrase “the N-word” simply won’t suffice. As a term, the “N-word” it’s powerless signifier that doesn’t have the ability to inflame or hurt. It is an emasculated and inoffensive word that can never adequately convey the pain and hurt that using the word “nigger” has

Of course, not everyone sees it like this. Which is why this morning there’s something of a minor dustup over the utterance of the word “nigger” by CNN reporter Drew Griffin. The Daily Caller reports:

On “CNN Newsroom” Thursday afternoon, Drew Griffin of CNN’s special investigations unit used a racial slur while explaining phone call evidence from a recent case where the federal government charged three Mississippi men with a hate crime for running over a black man with a truck after severely beating him.

Griffin also compared the case to a shooting in Florida, where an unarmed black teenager was killed by a neighborhood watch leader.

“At the end of this, Deryl Dedmon is laughing with his friends and actually called on a cell phone and, pardon my language but there’s no other way to say this — ‘I just ran over that f—ing nigger,’ that’s what he said. And it was a clear-cut case of pure racial-intent murder that took place there, which is why it was so easy to apply the hate crime legislation in this case,” Griffin said. “There was no question about it, unlike the circumstances involving the case in Florida.”

Now, I would argue that Griffen didn’t “use” a racial slur. He simply “said” a racial slur. The key here is motivation. Griffen didn’t utter the word “nigger” to demean blacks. He was not trying to slur anyone. He only spoke the word in order to point out that Deryl Dedmon is an undeniable bigot.

Of course, that explanation won’t satisfy everyone.

I imagine by the end of the day Drew Griffin’s little controversy will have become one of the day’s right-wing talking points, both on the radio and on Fox News. Hell, I can imagine Rush Limbaugh right now ranting and raving that this is all proof that CNN — and the rest of the liberal mainstream media — are the true racists and not guys like himself who have built careers as race-baiters.

That said, it’s still early in the day. Maybe Rush and his ilk will surprise me and ignore the chance to get in a few jabs. Perhaps they’ll even take the time to note that once again Jim DeMint talks a good Tea Party game, but with his endorsement of Mitt Romney, he has proven once again that he’s still a big-government GOPer at heart.

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