On this episode of “What Is X,” Justin invites his “old friend and sometimes adversary” Jason Stanley, the Yale philosopher and author of How Fascism Works, to investigate what might seem to be a relatively narrow question: What are slurs? You might think a slur is just a word that hurts. But to study slurs is, Jason contests, to attempt to understand why words have the communicative force they do—and why the very logic of philosophy of language falls short. In the traditional account, slurs seem to have special linguistic properties, to be uniquely expressive. But what if language is not at its core a neutral mechanism for conveying information, and the philosophy of language ignores the very aspects of language that make it so powerful and worthy of investigation? Slurs seem to be unique because they carry a history and an ideology. But so do all words—boss, professor, mother. Can slurs in fact teach us more about how language actually works than philosophy’s standard examples? To answer such questions, Justin and Jason also discuss the difference between slurs and taboos, what analytic philosophy can learn from Charles Mills, critical race theory and Judith Butler, and why the sentence “the cat is on the mat” expresses an ideological commitment.