While the term 'left-wing" is relatively neutral, "leftist" has a derogatory air to it, or so it seems to me. Am I correct? Does anyone have any references for this? All I could find was this, which suggests that the derogatory nature associated with the word is more common in the US.

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    I can be neutral or derogatory. Depends on context and intonation. In general, ist-inf things can be used as a smear (implying unreflecting dogmatism). – Dan Bron Jan 22 '17 at 14:17
  • It is interesting to note that its opposite, "rightist," is uncommon, so possibly right-wing speakers choose "leftist" when speaking derogatorily.. I agree with @DanBron that the -ist suffix can be associated with dogmatic behavior and language. However, it can also be completely neutral (dramatist, artist). I think what it comes down to more than anything is that politics is not neutral. – Katherine Lockwood Jan 22 '17 at 14:22
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    @KatherineLockwood Well, there’s always fascist if you’re in search of a derogatory -ist word. – tchrist Jan 22 '17 at 14:45
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    @RobertMc I'd like to, but the issue is both my personal standards and those of the site would require me to substantiate it (e.g. find notable examples of the word being used neutrally and used pejoratively), and that's more work than I currently have time for. But you (or anyone else) are more than welcome to post an answer based on my comment. No need to attribute me, even. – Dan Bron Jan 22 '17 at 15:19
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    But as with many another word (I see Yankee in the sidebar) the derogatory-ness depends entirely on who is using the word. If a conservative uses the word 'leftist', it's almost certainly derogatory; if a liberal does, it could even be complimentary. – jamesqf Jan 24 '17 at 21:20

If I say you have left-wing leanings, I am saying you fit in that camp because your beliefs are progressive. If I say you are a leftist, that is an attack on you as a person, the whole you, so it is more personal.

If I think you have a sick idea, we can disagree and debate it. If I say you are sick, those are fighting words.

  • Actually, "-wing" by itself tends to be pejorative. (Hence "wingnut".) – Hot Licks Jan 26 '17 at 22:03
  • Can you clarify? Are you implying that X-ist is generally derogatory for any X? – Mitch Jan 26 '17 at 22:54
  • @Mitch — My answer was about left-wing and leftist alone, distinguishing between adjectives and name calling. A friend may not like it if I say her ideas amount to fascism, but I would not call her a fascist. If I saw some ideas as left-wing and activists as leftists, I would not insult them by pigeonholing them according to how I see their ideas. Small difference that means a lot to me. – Yosef Baskin Jan 26 '17 at 23:24

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