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While having online conversations people seem to get triggered when the word plebeian is used to describe the commoners or common people. They seem to think its bad or something.

What's wrong in saying that you are a common dude or a common member of the society instead of some elite or celebrity?

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    "They seem to think its derogatory" Because (today) plebeian is derogatory, you're a snob if you say that to someone or about someone, it usually means the speaker thinks he/she is superior to the so-called lower classes. There's nothing wrong with saying a common/ordinary dude, so say that instead. – Mari-Lou A Jun 16 at 7:57
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    Exactly, the word also means commoner or an ordinary dude, why does the listener have to assume the negative meaning here (one of lower social strata) when a positive meaning (commoner) is also available. Isn't it negative or prejudiced thinking if you were to assume a default negative intention in people instead of positive one? – Prahlad Yeri Jun 16 at 9:11
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    I understand that people have been offended when the term was used, that should tell you something. You have two users, Pam and myself, who are explaining that using this expression is derogatory/pejorative but you still don't want to believe it. If I call someone a peasant, that's an insult. There's nothing neutral about the words "peasant" and "plebeian" today. It harks back to the era of nobles/barons/lords and their serfs. If you're referring to the medieval ages, then that's fine. It's a historic term, and the correct one to use in essays, and papers not on Facebook or Twitter. – Mari-Lou A Jun 16 at 9:18
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    Why did you say triggered instead of upset? – tchrist Jun 16 at 11:12
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    Winston Churchill often referred to himself as a commoner, as have other Englishmen of accomplishment and distinction. However, plebeian is more associated with the Romans, and although it meant something positive during the Republic, by the late Imperial period it became more associated (in the modern mind) with the people that had to be constantly amused with bread and circuses. You could perhaps use it in a way that brings out the virtues of the Republic, which would be creative and original. However, the Republic had its issues too, as I expect you know. – Global Charm Jun 16 at 18:02
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It’s a classism. You are drawing attention to their social class.

In the past, your class was something you were born with and it was very difficult to change. Social mobility is still limited, particularly to the lower classes and the poorest in societies where education has a cost attached. By using the word "plebeians" instead of, say, "people", you’re drawing attention to something they were born with and cannot necessarily change. If you think of other words that do this, you’ll understand why it’s a word that triggers.

  • Its a prejudiced way of thinking. The word also means "commoner", not just one belonging to the lower social strata. Why does one have to always assume the pessimistic meaning and ignore the optimistic one? – Prahlad Yeri Jun 16 at 9:09
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    @PrahladYeri what is optimistic about calling someone a plebeian? Please support your unsubstantiated claim. – Mari-Lou A Jun 16 at 9:24
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    One should consider both meanings equally, but understand that others do not. – Pam Jun 16 at 9:24
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    Both commoner and plebeian refer to people in ancient societies. Used for people today, the words have connotations that are derogatory, or likely to be considered so. – Xanne Jun 16 at 9:41
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    In Britain someone talking about "plebs" or "the plebs" would be immediately seen as offensively elitist and classist. – Michael Harvey Jun 16 at 9:47

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