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Comedian Chris Rock often uses the 'N' word in his routines 

New York has banned the word "nigger" in a symbolic attempt to eliminate its use in films, rap lyrics and everyday conversation.

In a move which was immediately attacked by some young blacks, the city's council has voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for New Yorkers, and hopefully Americans in general, to understand the word's racist origin and stop using it.

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The ban — aimed primarily at young black people who use the word as a term of endearment — is symbolic and will not be enforced.

Supporters said the word had historically been a derogatory epithet against blacks but had recently been adopted by black entertainers, particularly rappers.

Leroy Comrie, the New York councillor who sponsored the resolution, said fellow blacks were denigrating themselves and their history by using the word. He hopes the decision will spark a nationwide movement.

Supporters, who gathered at New York's City Hall on Wednesday wearing a badge featuring a white "N" severed by a red slash, are considering a letter-writing and e-mail campaign to persuade entertainment leaders and companies to join the cause. But there was little sign yesterday that young blacks would cut the word from their vocabulary.

The black American comedian Chris Rock uses the N word in his routines and showed little sympathy with the move. He said: "What? Is there a fine? Do judges say, '10 years, nigger!'"

Others agree that the resolution is a waste of time. "It's what I say all the time," said Tiara Smith, 17, from Dallas. "It's not going to stop anybody saying it." Sabrina Vidal, 19, a New Yorker, said it did not really bother her to hear the word in lyrics. "Some people are really offended by it, but I think there is much more out there to worry about," she said.

Some blacks argue that co-opting the word and giving it a new meaning has taken away its negative impact.

The Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx recently said he would not stop using the word, and didn't see anything inappropriate about blacks using it among themselves. But Mr Comrie insisted that the word, believed to have been derived from the Latin for black, was being used out of context.

The initiative began at the start of Black History Month, held in America every February, and has gradually caught on around the country. Several towns have passed similar measures.

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