Words And Meanings

When I was young, like most people here, I was completely confused by certain words, which I’d only encountered in reading and didn’t quite know how to pronounce.  I understand my pronunciation of Whale in Portuguese kept the family in stitches for years, and the funny thing is I no longer remember which pronunciation is the funny one and which the correct one.

More importantly, sometimes I assigned COMPLETELY wrong meanings to words.  I sometimes find that I’ve done that in English too, but more rarely.

You see, sure we owned a dictionary, but when I was eight and devouring all the books I or my friends could get our hands on, stopping to look in the dictionary was a waste of time. (I once had an entire “boyfriend/girlfriend” relationship for a whole two years because his parents were well to do and bought him whatever books he asked for.  As opposed to my family, where I could read whatever I could dig up (why the potato cellar, mom?  Weird place to hide dad’s old books.  I don’t care if you thought they weren’t aesthetically pleasing)  and got new books (often wildly inappropriate ones, and really, people, there is other science fiction than Verne, okay?) from relatives for my birthday (but not Christmas.  That was clothing and money.) Yep, I know what that makes me.  Don’t judge me, we were in fourth grade and the most onerous thing required of me as a girlfriend was to hold hands.)

So I inferred words from surrounding words, tone, story, whatever.

Which is why I came to think that “native” and “aboriginal” were words for “Savage”  and “barbaric”. This probably came from the fact that at the time I was going through a Tarzan and other books of similar vintage phase.  It wasn’t until I was reading an anthropological book and found aboriginal used in a context that couldn’t mean “savage” or barbaric that I realized I must have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and went to the dictionary, where I found that aboriginal meant originating in that place, and not “savage” or “barbaric.”  Native had the same meaning.

So, what is this all about?  Well, recently I went through great anguish of mind while writing a book set in the 19th century and involving Amerindians.  Should I use Indians? Or Natives?  Both were accurate usage for the time, but surely, periodically, they’d default to “Indian” since that was the common usage.

Of course these days “Indian” is considered pejorative because it’s the name given by Europeans who mistook the inhabitants of the Americas for inhabitants of quite another region of the world.

I get that.  I don’t get replacing it with “Native Americans.”  Yes, I know that the legends of a lot of tribes say that they were created here, but holy heck, are we going to go on that testimony now?  Then we should refer to Christians as Edenintes, because that’s where they believe they were created, right?  No?  Then what makes a religion true and the other false, from the outside?  Oh, yeah, because one is exotic and stuff.

In fact, from a scientific point of view we have more than enough proof that the people’s Europeans found in the Americas didn’t evolve there, weren’t created there, and weren’t the first ones there.  I.e. they displaced other people.

So, does that make them “Indians?”  Well, no.  That is an obvious misnomer.  That said, it was still the word used through most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  It is also still the word used in Portugal.  (My nickname from dad was “Indian” meaning an Amerindian (I think that is still the anthropological word.)   Other fathers called their daughters “princess”, my dad called me “Indian.”  Is it any wonder I love the man?)

So “native American” is a misnomer too.  BUT the more important thing is lots of peoples are misnamed in a lot of languages. Alemao is the Portuguese word for German.  As I understand it, the Alemani were only one of the German tribes.  And then there’s Pennsylvania Dutch.  They aren’t Dutch, of course.  It’s a mispronunciation of Deutsch and not understanding they meant “German.”

Of course Amerindian is wrong too, just an attempt to make it more specific than “Indian.”

And then of course there is the insanity of naming a tribal people spread over a continent the same things.  People are Cheyenne or Cherokee, Dakota or Aztec and they’re as different among them as Portuguese, German or French.

So, yeah, the name is wrong.  And “native American” is wrong, and IMNSHO we should just call people by their tribes or “people” name.  That’s me, though.  And in an historical context, I still chose to use “Indian” because it’s what the characters would use.

However, in a more sane perspective, why replace Indian with the politically correct “Native American” which is not only still as inaccurate, but also insulting in that it forces several tribes that have nothing to do with each other under the same umbrella.

This is the same insanity of most “political correct” naming.  It is still incorrect, and over time it acquires the same meaning as the word it replaces.  There’s no point at all replacing a negative word with a positive word because over time it acquires the same meaning.  We clever monkeys are really good at inferring meaning from use and ignoring the actual meaning of the words, just as I inferred “savage” and “barbaric” from aboriginal and native, because I was reading books of people who believed the two were equivalent.

How long did it take for “Special” to mean “short bus special” (and let me tell you aggregating “gifted” into “special” doesn’t help, nor does substituting “Special” with “exceptional.”  I’m theoretically the mother of a “twice exceptional” child, though I suspect he’s only “once exceptional” now, as he outgrew most of the sensory issues, while retaining the intelligence.  Calling him that back in middle school didn’t prevent the school from fearing him, distrusting him, and attributing to stubbornness issues that came from the sensory problems.)

Of course, it is easier to change “Indian” into “Native American” and congratulate yourself on your own tolerance and open mindedness than to ascertain what tribe you’re speaking about and use that name.  It is easier to designate people “special” or “exceptional” than to account for their abilities or disabilities and accommodating those, while treating them as people.

It is easier to submerge the individual in a group and then pretend everyone in that group are widgets, no matter how wrong this is.

And it is wrong.  And what was a bad, pejorative meaning will attach to the new word.  And nothing will be solved.

But hey, those who think they are superior and more understanding than the rest of us and who believe changing the word changes the thing can declare victory and move on.

Even if nothing changed.

318 thoughts on “Words And Meanings

  1. Wha!? People sometimes infer incorrect meanings for words from their contexts? I am decimated!

    1. The stories I have heard, the things I have seen, half the time I wonder if the problems they are having are mostly “own goals” rather than just the government screwing them over.

      1. Internal tribal politics can be really, really ugly. As in people being assaulted and murdered ugly. And in some tribes, schools and other public works are seen only as places to park supporters and relatives so they get on the payroll, not as ways to improve peoples’ lives. The Wall Street Journal had a sad little piece last year about a really good teacher who was forced out of a tribal school because she tried too hard to improve things and she wouldn’t follow a particular faction’s orders. In some places, students and others who work “too hard” to succeed are called “apples” because they’re only red on the outside.

          1. A former Northern Paiute tribal chairwoman who shot and killed four people, including three of her relatives, in a 2014 rampage was sentenced Monday to death in Modoc County Superior Court.

            Those killed were Angel Moonstar Penn, Rhoades’ 19-year-old niece; Glenn Phillip Calonico, Rhoades’ 30-year-old nephew; Rurik Daniel Davis, Rhoades’ 50-year-old brother; and Sheila Lynn Russo, 47.

        1. I know a person who fought her way through the military and then medical school, ultimately becoming a doctor of internal medicine. A good one, I might add. This despite losing her husband and more than one family member to murder and assorted other abject tragedies. The perfect SJW success story. (She used to hang out with my crowd, we were weirdos and outcasts together.)

          She graduated and went back home, to Give Something Back To The Community. The tribe, she said, needed her. And they did. Badly. They didn’t have an Internal Medicine doc at the hospital, they had to fly people to Phoenix.

          This woman was not well received back on her home reservation by her tribe. They wanted a White Doctor, not some jumped-up Indian. It is hard to express just how vast the disrespect was for her. I heard some of the stories. Unbelievable.

          So she told them to SHOVE IT. I believe her usage was somewhat saltier than mine here, and went to work for The White Man.

          Currently she practices in The Western Cowboy Country Sticks, tending to the hate-filled White Nazi rednecks, the beer-drinking, pickup truck driving, gun owning, Bible clutching a-holes of Flyover Country USA. You know, the ones who are keeping the Red Man down all over the place. She’s pretty happy with her decision, last I heard. Gets a lot more respect and a lot more money from the redneck ranchers.

          I hear the same story from successful Indians quite often.

          1. Somebody should tell a certain blogger about this. I’m not sure whether he’d say it was genetic or that it’s what they get for letting white men put them on reservations. Seems to depend on what kind of point he’s making today.

            1. If you mean the one I’m thinking of, there’s no point in talking to that guy. He is Unserious, as they say.

            2. In my family, and among my friends and social group, we have words for people who work hard to better themselves on their own merit. Go-getter. Success. Achiever. High flyer. None with any negative connotation.

              Apple. Banana. Oreo. Words used by various ethnic groups to denote persons among them who’ve worked hard to better themselves on their own merit. All with negative connotations, and all boiling down to meaning “Acting white”. I’m certain that certain blogger would have something to say about that.

              It is odd to think that success by hard work has a negative correlation in some ethnic groups, and is associated by the bulk of their members with a different ethnic group.

              1. Well Western Civilization is a success because of unbridled cultural appropriation. If some other culture comes up with a good idea, we pounce on it and make it ours. Other cultures strive for purity over success. Adopt something from a different culture, say hard work breeds success for instance and you are outcast and relegated to the culture you appropriated your new habit from. If Western Civilization tries to share the lessons we’ve learned, why then we are guilty of cultural imperialism.

                Now we have an educational system that teaches our young that Western Civilization could only have dominated and thrived by cheating. For after all, “No culture is better than any other.” What utter rot. Western Civilization is committing slow suicide. Whatever you may think of the God-Emperor Trump, he is not suicidal.

              2. At this point the Marxist nonsense and vicious propaganda has gotten so bad, that someone saying, “It’s all your fault, because you were born that way,” is actually a step up in terms of personal agency.

                If only because in the case of native American Blacks, they were able to fight back and win against that baloney once before, when it was nearly universal. The Black middle class was real and growing before the Marxists and the Lyndon B. Johnson neo-slavers got control of the government again.

                Every “liberal” trend coming from academia seems guaranteed to undermine any dysfunctional community’s shot at getting out of Hell. And it’s not as if the odds are good for most of these folks even if every progressive jackboot magically disappeared tomorrow. Sometimes I’m truly tempted to despair.

            1. ….I admit, my experience of the stereotypes suggests that one ought to mean “lazy,” but I’m tentatively guessing there’s something else about acculturation involved….

            2. TXRed, not saying you are wrong, but could you amplify where you heard the term “banana”. We are in the NYC area, and I know many Chinese-Americans who strive for this and haven’t seen any put-downs like this.

              (My wife is also a Chinese-American, and at least in her circles I have never seen anything like this. If anything, her parents try to keep the girls as pale as possible (my 3 girls – when I let them get a tan, my in-laws yell at my wife)).

              Now, there was that one old Chinese-lady in the subway who gave us stink eye who would probably say that – but I smiled at her and kissed my wife (if looks could kill…..).

              I am wondering if that term is limited to a certain area or group and not wide-spread among all Asians?


              1. I first heard the term “banana” used by one of my Asian classmates in PA school, who’d had to hear it used about himself that way plenty. He was Indian (as in from the subcontinent) though, not Chinese.

              2. My guess is that the term would have been used by Marxist Asians as a word of opprobrium for non-Marxist Asians.

              3. Every time I’ve seen it, it’s because they’re not racist against either white guys, non-asians, or not-of-the-same-asian-group.

                So, basically, “race traitor.”

        2. No different than any other low income ghetto. And when tribal leaders aren’t any different from a gang leader…

      2. It is the unholy trinity of organized crime, multi-generational alcoholism and government “assistance.”

        1. In the case of the Amerindians, however, I think there’s also a factor where these people are essentially being kept in a museum. There’s a definite feeling that they should “preserve their traditional way of life,” which in practice leaves them trapped and unsuited for life in the twentieth century, let alone the twenty-first.

          Mark Steyn once looked at conditions on a reservation in Canada and came to the conclusion that what we should be doing is just putting up the entire tribe in the Ritz-Carlton; it would cost about the same and do far less harm.

          1. Do not get me started. One of the most appalling failures of the Canadian nation is the state Indians are in around here. It is disgusting.

            With the money that disappears into the Ministry of Indian Affairs, putting them all up at the Ritz would be a bargain. You could buy them all a car and hire a driver too.

            All that, to keep people in permanent misery.

            I maintain that the best thing the Canadian government could ever do for the northern tribes is to admit defeat and get out completely. Up stakes, leave and never go back. It couldn’t possibly be worse than what they’re doing now.

            1. All that, to keep people in permanent misery.

              Hey! Keeping people in permanent misery is expensive! Why do you think so many Socialist countries go bankrupt?

              1. There are a lot of Shawnee living in Oldtown, Piqua, and other Ohio towns in the old Shawnee country. Some are Remnant Shawnee who never left, while others are folks who left the reservation in Oklahoma and came back here. They are all doing fine (other than the feud between the Remnant and the still in Oklahoma folks, because federal recognition would mean federal money).

                So yeah, weird situation.

                1. One of my favourite proofs that race is waay down-stream from culture. In fact, whenever you have two sub-groups within Race X and Race Y and Race Z one of which has cultural capital, the other of which is dysfunction on wheels, the dumpster fires ALL have one cultural thing in common.

                  Which is why fighting Marxism, cultural or otherwise makes for strange bedfellows.

  2. Keeping the language shifting is another way to keep people off balance. If they’re never sure of what language is acceptable, it becomes easier to accuse them of wrongdoing because they called someone the older, no longer favored word.

      1. I pointed that out to a feminist last night on Twitter.

        She was not particularly amused, judging by the half dozen tweets waiting for me when I got up this morning.

        1. Or, as an old ex put it “If you’ve got the name, you might as well have the game.”

        2. Yea and verily.

          I’ve always been of the opinion that if I’m going to get in trouble anyway, I might as well deserve it.

    1. Yep, today’s safe flooring is tomorrow’s eggshells.

      Do it enough, though, and I’ll just put rubber boots on and not care how many eggs I crush.

    2. “…accuse them of wrongdoing because they called someone the older, no longer favored word.”

      I had a lot of fun with that in PT school. I wrote a whole paper on the evolution of PC language when some supercilious twerp objected to the use of the words “disabled” and “disability” to describe a patient. She demanded I use the circumlocution “physically challenged”. I substituted “crippled” instead. |:)

      The paper on the evolution of the language was handy when I got called on the carpet by the head of the department. Hard to argue with a well researched history of the progression from fool to idiot to cretin to moron to useless eater to retarded development to “mentally challenged” to special. Same diagnosis, different eras.

      I note with amusement that “physically challenged” has since become anathema, and of late we are expected to use the term “differently abled.” Which is not even English, and simply begs one to ask: “How ‘different’ are we talking here? A little different or, y’know, REAL different?”

      Apparently saying this makes me Hateful. I’m very happy for the Vile people who think that to keep right on thinking it. I was going to post a link, but it seems Dr. Mauser doesn’t want that kind of talk on his blog. I don’t blame him, I delete cretins off my blog too.

      1. I think every American child needs to read Huckleberry Finn to graduate from high school then be taught how every generation since has had to learn the new PC term such a common word in the great American novel.

    3. As long as the definition for a word still exists in the dictionary, I’ll use it when I think it’s appropriate.

      1. A story from a few years back of an engineer who placed a request in for a new desk dictionary. When asked for justification since a dictionary was displayed on his desk, he wrote back “Spaceship defn An imaginary vehicle”. He got his new dictionary. A bulk purchase was made, if I remember correctly.

  3. Then we should refer to Christians as Edenintes, because that’s where they believe they were created, right?

    Oooo. Can I be a Midgardian? Can I? Can I? Please?
    (Okay, this is just a c4c, but I can at least try to be humorous about it. 😉 )

      1. Hmm. Midgarder might be problematic. How many people hear, or even read, mid-garter? And then poof! We’re into a romance novel or other form of soft porn.

        1. Yeah, well this dyslexic made the mistake of looking at Midgarder and originally reading that as Midgrader. That lead me to wondering how we got on to school stories, if they would be in the style of Stalkey & Co. or The Lawrenceville Stories, and, if so, where I could find them.

  4. About the only reason, I’d use “Amerindian” instead of “Indian” is if I had plenty of “people from India” in a story.

    As for “Native American”, what the different between “your ancestors came here thousands of years ago” and “your ancestors came a hundred years ago”? 😦

    Oh, I don’t remember getting words wrong from “context” but there are plenty of words that I only know from reading not hearing so I can’t pronounce them properly. 😉

      1. I expect that any day now we will be told that “Dot Indian” plays into invidious stereotyping that natives of the sub-continent* are unusually tech-savvy and can be relied upon to repair your computer problems.

        *HerbNquiry: is there a continent for doms?

        1. Well, they have a region: http://www.humansexmap.com/

          Or if I feel liking an ass I’d say, yes, Europe. That said FemDoms seems to be much more distributed across races than MaleDoms (plus any permutation of US race relations you can find people who want to play with it as a fetish).

        2. Many years ago in the Teen Titans (long before the cartoon) the character Changeling (presented as his original superhero name “Beast Boy” in the cartoon) described a villain as “Indian, not Me-scalp-em-Cowboy but Sari, wrong Number.”

          I can imagine the howls of outrage by having a character, even one known for childish wisecracks and no filter on his mouth, using such a line today.

          1. I’ve heard “push start” vs. “pull start”, but never twice from the same person. |:)

            1. I’ll probably regret asking this, but I don’t even know what that means in this context.

              1. Hindus vs. Sikhs. It is as dumb as sh1t. That’s why I never hear it twice, after telling the speaker they are dumb as …

                1. I still don’t know the context, and that’s okay. I think of Sikhs as “those turbaned folks who have that big festival up near Marysville where they give everyone free food.” Or “frame that photo properly so the turban bun on that kid fits in the ID.”

              2. I pull start my self propelled mower. Now I’m wondering if I can push it fast enough to drop the clutch and get it running.

      2. Oh dear, oh dear, oh deary me. The harder they try the messier it gets.

        Not all tribes that developed in the Americas used or use feathers, nor are all residents of the Indian sub-continent of the same religious persuasion.

        1. For that matter, IIRC the “Indian dot” is more of a “caste” symbol. IE it shows that the wearer is one of the higher Hindu castes.

            1. Looking it up, the “dot” has religious meaning and it has different names depending on if the wearer is female or if the wearing is male.

          1. So that kind of turns it around again, to being a complement– “The group where some very important people are well known to use feathers as a status symbol, or the group where some have dots on their forehead for the same reason?”

          2. Depending on your main cultural affiliations, “red dot” might mean an optical device you put batteries in, not a caste mark…

            Kinda like the way “default” means something entirely different to programmers than accountants…

            1. And here I thought that the ‘red dot’ identified the book as off of the sale table.

          3. Okay, context issue. I was having a hell of a time trying to figure out what a Dot Indian was from a computer information technology perspective.
            Let the gales of laughter begin.

        2. Aaaaand this is why American Indian or Amerind is such a good word.

          It’s clear to everyone what it means “any pre-Colombian tribal group”
          It’s succinct
          It’s obviously colloquial, I.e. the information that the word used is giving the hearer an incomplete picture is baked in.

          Not that social management to deform meaning isn’t a universal *English-language tradition, but going out of one’s way to force it on other people strikes me as foolish at best, and malicious at worst.

          Just don’t get me started on the “why do those mean United States of Americans call themselves “Americans” when Canadians, Brazilians, and Venezuans live on one of the American continents, too!”

          *possibly other languages? Dunno: see Studies in Words.

          1. We got the name Americans from the British.

            They called the thirteen colonies, their American Colonies and referred to people from their Colonies as Americans.

            So “who are you” to tell us that we can’t call ourselves Americans?

            1. We’re also the only nation on these two Western continents with “America” in our name, so perhaps the real question is “Why are Canadians, Brazilians, and Venezuelans ashamed to take the name of their continent?”

      3. I have not figured out how to extract a clip from a video file, so here’s my transcript from Get Smart season 1 episode 6, “Washington 4, Indians 3”:

        SMART: We have received an ultimatum demanding the surrender of the United States within 48 hours or a state of war will exist.
        GENERAL: War? An ultimatum from whom?
        SMART: The Indians.
        GENERAL: But India is a neutralist nation.
        CHIEF: Whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop.

    1. Me too. A common interchange around here:

      He: Oh, is that how you pronounce [word]?
      Me (cautiously): Well, that’s how *I* pronounce it…

      I suspect there’s a lot of this going around among those of us who were voracious readers as children, because we seldom slowed down enough to look up a word in the dictionary. I know I didn’t.

      1. I’d get a word I’d pick up from reading, and one I’d get from hearing and think they were two completely different words. Didn’t help when you’d reverse characters in the written version (reading “voila” as “viola” and wondering what a string instrument had to do with things).

        1. One of my favorite such came with the realization that Jed Clampett was the one properly pronouncing “victuals.”

          1. The Gilbert & Sullivan operetta actually has a couple of short deleted scenes (because the actress featured in those scenes was not comfortable with just acting at that point; opera is sung through, and just delivering lines without music made her nervous.) One of them has the character basically being an annoying “yes man/you meant” type until she’s banished, and as she leaves, she’s correcting the male character’s “fore-castle” to “FOC’SLE!”

      2. I found dictionaries to be of little help. If they had the word I was looking for, which wasn’t often (why do they spend almost all their space on words people DON’T need to look up?!), they only told you how Manhattanite dictionary editors felt it ought to be pronounced by the literati, which might be ROFL siilly in the word’s natural setting…

        1. I was very fortunate to have a dictionary published in the late fiftes, I think it was. Thick as a shoebox, thin pages. The kind with basic calculations and rudimentary etymology along with the current, recent, and archaic definions (often several of each) and a sample usage, pronunciation, and part of speech. Love that dictionary. I hope to find it again someday, I learned some useful stuff from it.

          1. If you have a library card in America, and a decent internet connection, you can have that dictionary right now: it is called the OED (Oxford English dictionary) online.

            Also, even if you don’t live near an urban center odds are good your local library has some form of reciprocal agreement with one of the big ones. You might have to drive up to one of their branches in person, but once you have their card you can use all of their resources online.

            I think you can also get copies of the abridged OED on dead tree, still, as well.

      3. I spent *years* mispronouncing certain words (‘brazier’, ‘macabre’, and ‘manor’ are the ones I most clearly remember, because I either argued about it with the person trying to correct me, or it was late enough in my teen years that I was embarrassed by it), because I never learned to read phonetically. And was both a voracious and an advanced reader as a kid. Yeah, I had some very weird pronunciations happening…

          1. Yeah. I was pronouncing it ‘mack-uh-brr.’ My 10th grade English teacher (whom I was speaking with after class when the mispronunciation occurred) tried mightily not to giggle and failed. But she corrected me, and I explained, a bit red faced, that I had a bit of a problem there because no phonetics (the symbols mean *nothing* to me). She pointed out that, as I was single-handedly helping the class win the English department book reading contest, it was all good. 😀

            1. It helps to have a sense of the linguistic origin of a word, If I know a word is of French derivation I am more inclined to subsume certain phonemes than if it is German, for example. (The French are so lavish they don’t bother pronouncing all their letters, the Germans so parsimonious that they make sure to pronounce each and every one.) I have, in recent years, learned to interpret Japanese parsing of syllables and can mostly negotiate their vowels.

              How one develops this etymological intuition is beyond my Ken, if not my Barbie.

              1. “Colonel” is interesting, because English apparently got it via two separate linguistic sources. So we spell it that way and pronounce it “kernel.”

                1. Also “Lieutenant”. Always weirds me out in talking with my Royal Canadian Navy brethren when what was a perfectly normal conversation turns into “You’re really not like us, are you” because they ask where “Leftenant Commander Smith” might be.

                  1. I am afraid to look at the actual etymology of Lieutenant, because I don’t know whether it would be better to have my imagined etymology confirmed of debunked….

                    To wit: the word is composed of lieu + tenant. Lieu is French for “Place” and tenant is from the Latin “teneo” which is “to hold or possess” and the suffix -ant, indicating “a person who”…

                    Which when put together means that “Lieutenant” translates to “Placeholder”, and who thought that was a good name for a military rank?

                    1. “who thought that was a good name for a military rank?”
                      Anyone who’s ever dealt with a brand-new one….. 😎

                    2. In that context, “Placeholder” means one who can act in place of another. IE An assistant or second-in-command.

                      The Lieutenant could act when the Captain was needed elsewhere or was handling another matter.

                      In earlier times, the term Captain was used to describe any commander of a large body of fighting men. His “lieutenant” was a member of his group that he trusted to give commands to his men (or part of his men).

                      To make matters “interesting”, the term sergeant comes from a term that meant servant. IE a servant of the captain. 😉

              2. Before learning some French I thought macabre referred to a particularly nasty clan. Up the McAbers!

                Still have trouble resisting that pronunciation. It’s so evocative.

            2. At least you didn’t pronounce it “McBare”, as at least one of Stephen King’s childhood friends did.

            3. Once upon a time I knew those phonetic symbols. Now I don’t even *recognize* them, other than the bar signifiying a long vowel.

        1. You want “fun”?

          Have a mother, who is a school teacher, trying to help you spell words by telling you to “sound the word out”.

          I just couldn’t sound words out. 😦

        2. For personal reasons I would love to know how you mispronounced “brazier”. The commonest wrong way I’ve heard makes it sound like “brassiere”.

          1. lol, that would be the one. My mother about laughed herself sick, and then explained why it was really, really necessary to pronounce that particular one correctly.

            Not unlike the conversation I had once with someone why it was important to pronounce ‘pasty’ (as in Cornish pasties) correctly, vs. the other pronunciation, which refers to something else entirely. Screwing up and making it a long ‘a’ can lead to some embarrassing situations, heh. (In that case, it was me correcting them, rather than the other way around.)

      1. If anyone asked me I’d say “American Tribes”, but no one has, so I”m safe from the Totalitolerance brigade (For now. Dun Dun Dun!)

            1. Google says it comes from a guest blog entry, here, or at least that’s the earliest reference I can find in a “quick and dirty” search.

    2. There’s also “First Nations” (Canada but creeping south) and “Native,” occasionally the pompous “Indigenous Peoples” and “Autochthonous Indiginie” which had me almost choking as I tried not to laugh at the pompous get. The Southern Cheyenne gent beside me sighed very, very loudly (history meeting in Oklahoma).

      1. IMO “First Nations” makes more sense that some of those terms as long as you remember that they are the “early Nations” that survived the fights between other “early Nations”. 👿

        1. Except archeology seems to be finding that so-called First Nations, are actually second or third waves that displaced or absorbed the first ones.

      2. “Autochthonous Indiginie”

        It is probably a good thing I wasn’t there to hear it. I would have already been laughing out loud before I could think to suppress it.

        1. One of my fellow students *mumblety* years ago likened suppressing the impulse to horse laugh at academic tomfoolery to training oneself to suppress the gag reflex. *chuckle* Okay, okay, highly inappropriate, but it *was* funny!

        2. Indiginie — pronounced Injun, perhaps? The second “i” and terminal “ie” being silent (terminal “ie” taking the pronunciation as genie = jinn.)

          1. There’s a car-fixing place nearby called Honest Engine. It’s one of those names that’s incredibly funny if you know linguistic history, yet has a level of plausible deniability built in if anyone decides to get Publicly Offended.

    3. I always liked the formulation Andre Norton used: “Amerind.” Kept the historical context while clearly distinguishing the two. Logical and sensible. Which, of course, meant it would never catch on…

  5. So, you’ve been a book slut from an early age, just as we all expected. But you say that as though it were a bad thing.
    When I hear native American I always think, Oh, those guys who got here first. Still a matter of contention as to whether they walked across that land bridge, sailed over in boats, or both.
    And a serious question. Just what pray tell is the correct term these days for people who actually are from the Indian sub continent?

          1. I’d say that’s up to her. For myself, I discovered that I had been misspelling Wyrm for 50 years. I find it much more dignified and awesome being one of that tribe than one of those lesser breeds.

          1. I’m going to assume that wasn’t too obscure of a literature joke and conclude it just wasn’t as funny to anyone else as it was to me.

            1. Took me a second reading, but I got it; I thought it was quite clever, actually. I think the problem is that the post nesting put your comment too far away from the reference.

    1. She’s not a book slut any more. She gets paid for books now, which means the terminology is different. 😉

      (This sort of terminology is common among the arts and theatre crowd, BTW.)

      1. Historically, there be good reason for such terminology’s being commonplace in that crowd. I do not impugn the morals of actresses of bygone days, merely note that they were rather more modern than contemporary.

  6. Replacing words which have turned into insults with “neutral” ones is so damn useless hobby, it’s just a never ending cycle. Anything describing anything somebody can see as some sort of negative, especially as “less” than normal, probably ends up being used as an insult sooner or later, and probably sooner if a big hullabaloo is made of how this is the word you now need to use for whatever so you don’t insult anybody.

    Heh. Finland used to be the name only for what is now called Finland Proper (in English as a direct word for word translation of the Finnish name, Varsinais-Suomi). Then there were Savonia (Savo), Tavastia (Häme), Ostrobothia (Pohjanmaa) and a few other places, and originally, before the Swedes took over, the different tribes may have spoken very similar languages but no way no how did they see themselves as one people (one reason why the Swedes could take over once they figured out that this idea of “kingdom” had advantages over warring tribes, well before Finns had time to come to the same conclusion).

    We are not even genetically the same people. Seems one of the sharper genetic divides in Europe goes between western and eastern Finland.

    1. We are not even genetically the same people. Seems one of the sharper genetic divides in Europe goes between western and eastern Finland.

      Clearly, one group is descended from marooned aliens. That would also explain the inscrutable language and the mysterious love of salmiak, which was doubtless used to make hoses in the mothership.

      I denounce myself.

          1. Sadly, I actually think that sounds tasty. Salty licorice is something I like. But it seems like a vice or a drug…I can’t understand why I like it….

            1. Salty licorice is alright. The breathing of ammonia fumes is rather much. I made the mistake of chewing the Double Salt Licorice. Stuck to the teeth and evolved ammonia. Now, left to slowly dissolve it’s less harsh and seems usefully medicinal – good to clear the schnoz/sinuses.

    2. Replacing words which have turned into insults with “neutral” ones is so damn useless hobby, it’s just a never ending cycle.

      As much as they annoy me in terms of what they hope to achieve policy wise I give Queer Nation credit for just raising the middle finger and embracing the negative term. Taking it and working to make it a positive by defeating the stereotype seems a much wiser strategy.

      The problem is that is actual work.

      1. The problem is that is actual work.

        In the long run it is less tedious work than constantly throwing tantrums over innocent word usage and having to find a new euphemism every decade or two.

        1. Yes, but it is the kind of work that takes planning and continued effort instead of a tantrum and thinking you are done.

      2. That’s why it’s the “black” community. Martin Luther King Jr. took the stronger pejorative (because darker skin was seen as less desirable) and used it as the descriptor. (He didn’t use the strongest because that had such incredible negative cultural connotations that it would take a lot more than self-adoption to erase them.)

    3. James Taranto calls this the “euphemism” treadmill: you give it a new word, the new word eventually becomes insulting, and you have to come up with another new word.

      It’s worth remembering that “retarded,” which is now so horrible that people are shocked it ever appeared in print, was originally one of those nicer euphemisms: the person isn’t stupid, his development is just a bit slow.

      1. As I note above, the SJWs have so perverted the language that the current circumlocution is ‘differently abled.’ Which is not English, as “able” is not a verb.

        1. “Differently abled? Don’t you mean crippled?”

          “No. Not the euphemism. Genuinely differently abled. Can’t see orange or red, but can see well into UV. Different ability.”

          1. If only that were the case. But no, we get people confined to a wheelchair due to brain injuries being called “differently abled” because the nice lady in charge is So Concerned that they might get their feelings hurt by us horrible Abled people. (You know, the ones who wipe their butts and teach them how to walk, talk, and chew gum again. Being Able is a sin for SJW activists.)

            The nice lady in charge tends to be the bustling middle aged virago type, and so remains blissfully unaware that those patients are the most serious badasses you will ever meet.

            I remember a kid for whom putting on socks was a five minute gymnastics display. And it hurt. That kid put on his own socks every goddamn day, because he could. He laughed like a hyena whenever he heard the term “physically challenged.”

            1. For for mental issues, ‘You shouldn’t self critique because of self-esteem’. Self esteem was not the problem. The problem was remaining oriented to reality as far as the impact of the social deficits was concerned.

      2. So you’really saying “flame retardant” DOESN’T mean “disabled arsonist”? Nuts.

    4. What I have found on the subject on tumblr suggests the repeated replacements are a feature, not a bug. You “have to” keep finding new ones that don’t have painful associations to hurt anybody’s feelings in the group in question, plus you can tell who Really Cares by whether they keep up with the terminology or at least instantly accept the changes when you tell them.

  7. The term “Native American” irks me for a different reason — the word ‘native’ means ‘born here.’ I was born here, although (as far as I know) I have no American Indian blood. Not only that, but I can count ten generations of my ancestors who were born here (on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family)!! So when do we become ‘Native Americans?’ And why should we be called ‘European Americans’ when it has been several generations back that any of my ancestors stood on European soil? One of my grandfather’s cousins was in Europe during WWII (he was in a German POW camp for about a year of that time), but as far as I know, it’s been around a hundred and fifty years since the last of my ancestors left Europe.

    When my brothers and I were small and beginning to learn about geography and American history and where people come from, we asked Mom one time, “What are we?” Her answer was, “Americans.”

  8. Incidently the normal word Amerinds use for the peoples descended from those here before the Mayflower (or Cortez to include all the Americas, ie for themselves, besides their tribal ID, is “Indian”. It seems to me that they are the best deciders of the “pejoritiveness” of the word. From what I have read/heard, “Redskin” football is great, admits that ideians actually exist!

    1. Actually, the Redskins haven’t been great in a few years; I think they went 9-6-1 last year. But I’m still pulling for them next year, Lord willing.

      And I don’t know if they got their trademarks back after Obama’s Patent & Trademark office stripped it for being “offensive.”

    1. When speaking generally, yes. Otherwise, the tribal name is used. (To be very polite, particularly to the elders that I talked to, I used to use their autonyms – Diné, Inde, etc. Although that is becoming less necessary, as those of my generation are becoming the elders.)

  9. OT: there are words in English that have more than one meaning, some times with contradictory meanings. For example mine= belonging to me, and explosive device. Do other languages have this problem?

    1. Rule of thumb: in English, the shorter and more common the word, the longer and more varied the meanings in the dictionary. For example, other meanings of mine include:

      a pit or excavation in the earth from which mineral substances are taken

      a subterranean passage under an enemy position

      a rich source of supply

    2. OT: there are words in English that have more than one meaning, some times with contradictory meanings.

      My own favorite is “cleave” which is its own antonym.

  10. My favorite example of PCism relating to indian tribes and sports teams was when an enterprising reporter bothered to ask the local tribe how they felt about this offensive name being removed.

    The tribes response, IIRC, was along the lines of “hey, we like [old name] too!” Poor PC reporter wasn’t quite sure what to think, so they probably decided that the poor benighted indians weren’t smart enough to realize that they’d been insulted all of these years *sob*

    Can’t exactly call indians racist for reveling in the Washington Redskins and their tomahawk chop …

    1. … probably decided that the poor benighted indians weren’t smart enough to realize that they’d been insulted all of these years

      They had, after all, been educated in government schools.

    2. The tomahawk chop is connected to fans of the Atlanta Braves, apparently adopted from fans of the Florida State Seminoles.

      Side note: Both the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Redskins trace their linage back to Boston — where they were both called the Braves.

      1. I confess to a little trill of amusement when observing Mrs. Ted Turner (Jane Fonda) enacting the Tomahawk Chop during Braves telecasts.

      2. The tomahawk chop is connected to fans of the Atlanta Braves, apparently adopted from fans of the Florida State Seminoles.

        Tells you how much I know about sports, but the overall point stands. Wait …. did I just say “fake but accurate”?

      3. A major point about the Redskins, their first coach was an Indian. The team was partially named in his honor.

      4. Supposedly Tomahawk, WI and Atlanta, Ga are sister cities or such. This happened after Atlanta fans realized that the people saying they were from Tomahawk were not just making it up to mess with them.

    3. Similar failed co-oping of outrage in Washington for the word “skookum,” meaning “good” and used roughly like “cool” or “awesome.” Ton of businesses used it. Thankfully, some of the local tribal folks piped up and got attention.

    4. My favorite is when some people sued Florida State University to try to get them to change their name from the Seminoles. Filing briefs on the side of the university was…the Florida State Seminole Tribe.

      1. That’s because the name and imagery are licensed from the tribe. The tribe has a vested economic interest in maintaining that nickname. It also leads the to police its usage for the same reason.

        Who knew property rights was the best way to make sure something is treated well

          1. But had the tribe licensed the name and image? That was key and got the Seminoles in court, both legal and public opinion, fighting for the name to stay. It is one of the few cases where the SJW types had to face minorities saying, “By doing this you are taking bread out of our mouths.”

          2. And Chief Illiniwek was retired at my alma mater, never mind that the Lakota Sioux proudly made his costume, and he was not a typical “clown” mascot like Reggie Redbird, but only came out to do his dance and then went backstage.

            All because one busybody activist decided to raise a stink. It still hurts.

  11. Of course, it is easier to change “Indian” into “Native American” and congratulate yourself on your own tolerance and open mindedness than to ascertain what tribe you’re speaking about and use that name.

    A friend has a service dog and has learned the hard way she gets the most grief (and out and out violation of the ADA) from the “open minded and tolerant” crowd than anywhere else, especially a local burn group.

    The more you are saying you are something the less you probably are it. If you are saying it in private, to your mirror, in the morning every morning it could me you want to be it and are working the issue. It is just as likely that you are doing the affirmation and not the work but I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt on that.

    However, when they are doing it in public to contrast themselves to other people I give no benefit of the doubt. You aren’t the thing and don’t really care about doing the work but just want the reward.

        1. I’m afraid her Dan would dispute this most vigorously. On the one hand, one might find time to write in the nunnery. On the other, they frown on bringing your husband in with you, and male children and friends at any and all hours should it become necessary, I imagine.

  12. As an entirely different use of the word “Indian”, I did a double-take when viewing a post by one of my Facebook friends about a cricket match between Mumbai and Delhi this past week when he said “Go Mumbai Indians”. I had to look it up to confirm that the Mumbai team is named “Indians”. Delhi is the “Daredevils”. So, for an accurate use of the word “Indian” try that one.

    Though, can any nerdy braniac here (I’m sure there are plenty of those) historically show me that we westerners somehow imposed the words India and Indian on them, and that they should be using something else instead? LOL

    1. IIRC, it went: “Sindhu” (Sanskrit) -> “Hindu” (Persian) -> “Indos” (Greek) -> “India” (Latin). (All English transliterations, obviously – digging up three other character code sets is just too much right now…). All pretty much referring to the same river system, which is only a small part of what is now called “India” (either the subcontinent or the nation); and is not even in the country to which it gave its name! War, demographic invasions, “cultural appropriation” are other things that make a mess of semantics.

    2. Pretty much every tribe’s name for itself translates as “the people”.
      With the implication of everyone else being less than people being fully intentional.

      All the Indians I’ve been friends with have rather liked the generic term of Indians.

      1. A point there. American Indians weren’t one people, and therefore they had no name for all of them. They were an assortment of tribes, each with a different name referring to that tribe. A lot of the smaller East coast tribes are gone completely, either absorbed into the general population through marriage or wiped out. And the East coast tribes had nothing in common with the Plains Indians or the West coast Indians except they lived on the same continent. Probably weren’t even aware of the existence of other tribes more then 100 miles away except as rumors and tall tales until the Europeans came along.

        So Indian is as good a term as any for the collection, American Indian if you want to differentiate from India Indian.

        But then, what do you call the Indians South of the U.S. border to differentiate them? Mexican Indians? Brazilian Indians? Chilean Indians? between North and South America, there’s a lot of Indians. A lot of the Mexican natives speak neither Spanish nor English.

        1. That’s interesting in itself and was ongoing before the Europeans came and stayed. The Creek absorbed several different nations while still in the East, and then there’s the account of the Seminoles.

          1. There were major shifts in populations long before the Europeans began to settle. For example, the Cherokee were far from the group to live in the southern Appalachians.

            1. A whole lot of people along and east of the Mississippi moved around after the collapse of Cahokia around 1350ish. As best anyone can tell, things were still unsettled in the mid 1500s.

          1. I always point out that unlike the other nations on the two American continents, ‘America’ is part of the name of our nation.

        2. “Probably weren’t even aware of the existence of other tribes more then 100 miles away except as rumors and tall tales until the Europeans came along.”

          I don’t think so. Consider the history of the 5, later 6, Nations.

          “The Iroquois used wampum as a person’s credentials or a certificate of authority….. and it was used as a way to bind peace between tribes ….They were traded widely to tribes in Canada, the Great Lakes region, and the mid-Atlantic.”

          Lots of north south travel in the East along the same routes later used by the Americans to threaten Canada and vice versa as in Up State New York and along what became the Wagon Road south from Philadelphia noted for carrying (folk for some definitions of folk) songs. The mid-western tribes became the plains tribes after the horse became common. Before the horse it’s still very much the great American Desert. Western tribes often had some contact from the coast to the headwaters of the salmon streams. Lots of flint, agate and obsidian got around a long ways from where it came out of the ground.

          For simple stereotyping the only guaranteed dyed in the wool full blooded black letter law Cherokee I know is a Jew born and raised in NYC. It lets him exceed the speed limit on a reservation and plead Indian and that’s his usage so he goes to a sovereign tribal court with no state law points. His parents died together when he was a young teenager and he was adopted by friends who were each enrolled Cherokee full blood by tribal and Federal records and rules so he is too.

  13. “Indian” is a pretty good jerk filter, though– and you can identify what kind of a jerk they are by how they respond!

    Oh, incidentally– finding out which group they are still won’t get you out of the difficulties; I can’t remember who the Paiute are related to, just that it pisses off one of the parties involved. I THINK it’s the other guys, but then my sample of Paiute are mostly relatives, and the decent ones at that.

    (Incidentally, they also answer the “why is it that when a #NotRecognizedIndian has an Indian ancestor, it’s an ancestress– because it’s freaking obvious if you’re talking to someone named “Redfeather” that they’ve got Indian ancestors, and likewise that someone had a white ancestor when they live on the Rez but are named O’Murphy. The “Indian great-grandmother” may have been a Smith or Jones, but was recognizably Indian anyways.)

    1. Oh, incidentally– finding out which group they are still won’t get you out of the difficulties; I can’t remember who the Paiute are related to, just that it pisses off one of the parties involved.

      Wednesday is Indian taco day at the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza (commonly known as Valley of Fire) just north of Las Vegas. Highly recommended, by the way.

      Mrs. Chronda invariably orders a Navajo taco, then gets embarrassed.

      1. Yum. That is one thing that has spread through all of the Southwest tribes, and a good thing, too.

        However, I still think that the San Carlos Apache fry bread with honey and powdered sugar is the bestest ever. (Probably because that’s what I grew up with – always a special treat to go to the SCA Lions booth at the county fair or the horse races.)

        1. Not just you. I got to taste that exactly twice at trade shows when I was traveling with my grandparents. I still remember it. Apache fry bread with honey and sugar rocks. *grin*

        2. I love the fry bread with honey and powdered sugar on the Big Rez. (They think I’m crazy because I like mutton stew – although if I had to eat it all the time, rather than just when I visit the Rez, I probably would think anyone who likes it is crazy too).

    2. I grew up in an Indian reservation (have to say in because it was set up around my ancestors’ town and my ancestor donated land to the tribe for their main village). Which Paiutes are you related to? Because that is who surrounds us.

      As to why it is usually an ancestress, it was more likely to be a woman because the men were the ones more likely to strike out and be out there alone when prospecting, homesteading, clearing for new settlements. And it was much less looked down on if the white man married the tribal member than if a “civilized” woman married a tribal member unless that tribal member was trying to live like a white man.

      It still happened both ways, though the really annoying thing is the whole “Cherokee Princess” thing. One, there weren’t “princesses” per se. Two, while the Cherokee tribe is one of the more likely ones to show up in DNA results, there were plenty of others out there that were closely related, Three, the marriage usually happened back when records were a bit more spotty, many hid the marriages at first as a bit shameful (the next couple generations would try to distance themselves) and then later on, it became popular so the story would evolve. Many times, the stories were used to establish some sort of legitimacy to some land even if there was no Indian Princess in the background.

      1. The ones near Modoc– no idea what the sub-group would be, were called “Modoc” last I knew and aren’t Pit River, although I don’t even know if those guys are still called that…heck, last I knew the “experts” were insisting that eye-witnesses were wrong about the purpose of the pits.

        Some folks may restrict it to the American version of “I’m related to royalty,” but I’ve had a lot more people be nasty to me, specifically, because my great grandmother didn’t come with papers than I’ve even heard the “we’re Cheroke” line. As in, utterly flying off the handle because she was 1) female 2) great-grandmother 3) I’m not registered. It’s a little scary, honestly; I’m starting to think I attract histronically inclined people.

        Well, papers they’ll accept, anyways– pretty freaking obvious in the family photos, which are on paper… she just didn’t CARE, and neither do we, beyond as much as we care about the Irish or Scottish ancestors. Her husband had a better story… his dad was some sort of criminal, kicked out of several countries, he was a preacher. 😀 A couple of their sons use to go to the KKK recruiting picnics, because it was really good food. (probably the irony, too)
        See? AWESOME stories….

        1. I didn’t know the Paiute extended up that far. The ones I grew up near are in Arizona.

          Crazy. I wonder how DNA testing will change tribal membership rules. I know if your ancestor wasn’t on the Dawes rolls, you couldn’t get membership for years. That has been changing recently in some tribes. My closest possible Indian ancestor is somewhere in the early 1700s/late 1600s. I disproved a different possibility in a more recent generation.

          I love family stories though. We’ve got one (since disproven but still fun) that said we were descended from Pierre Lafitte, the pirate. There’s also the proven things including a murder, a couple of lynchings, divorces nobody talked about only to discover a relative we didn’t know about, and a few others.

        2. Heh. My ancestry is a tangled mess, with holes where “not white enough to own land” were left out, “Cherokee” which were half black, “blacks” who really were Cherokee, along with the odd moonshiner, circuit preacher, and horse thief. Can’t think of a one who would or ever did say “we’re Cherokee” the once, though.

          Might could be the story about the one’s brother who went on a murder spree back before the turn of the century (err, pre-1900 that is) has some truth in it. *chuckle*

          1. I have some friends who are roughly 1/3 Cherokee*, registered, and with a last name that traces back to an ancestor who built a house that is now a landmark in Georgia—and the male of the pair is quite obviously a descendant of that ancestor, given his feature set. It honestly doesn’t come up in conversation often, and I managed to blindside the guy (who sings opera) by suggesting that he’d be eligible for the Hamilton cast and not King George III, because he didn’t realize that he fit into the “minority” casting call.

            *You can approximate 1/3 with enough crosses.

      2. I’m re-watching “Emergency!” and the whole Cherokee princess thing came up in one episode (named “Peace Pipe,” IIRC). John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) responded, “yeah, we call that ‘White Man Royalty’ syndrome.”

    3. Eh, the woman could have been farther down along the line. After all, my last name was picked up MANY generations after the women who (as far as the records go) could have materialized out of thin air on their wedding days, which usually indicates a local.

      But, yes, all women.

  14. I can commiserate. I have always been a pretty extreme introvert and have always read a lot while not spending a lot of time talking to others. So, as you would expect I have come across quite a few words while reading that I had never heard in use. Of note, the word Facet, which I had always pronounced as faucet… only to be called on that mispronunciation while doing a comedy podcast with some friends (who ribbed me about it mercilessly). Embarrassing yes, but funny, so it worked.

    Similarly, the name Sean. How the F is that pronounced “Shawn”? Yep, I had READ the name in a bunch of different books, but never knew anyone named Sean, so I never made the connection… Until, once again rather publicly, I found myself tasked with reading off a list of names, and was called on my mispronunciation (and belittled for my lack of education, intelligence, etc. that particular Sean was a a-hole.)

    Luckily, most of the times I have come across words that I was mispronouncing weren’t so bad (or so public). I dated a woman for a few years who delighted in correcting me when I mispronounced words, but she did so in a nice way because she understood where the issue came from. Although, I still find myself defaulting to pronouncing the word eXcape rather than escape (which particularly drove her up the wall for some reason).

    1. “Cache” – which I pronounced “catch” for years…

      I wish we’d had the audible dictionaries when I was growing up. It was a struggle for me to look up the phonetic symbols in the front of the book and then puzzle it out.

      1. Hmm…a technique used by bears, explorers, and computer engineers.

        And I botched the pronunciation for years also.

      2. Part of the reason I can’t spell English correctly is because of having to learn phonics and the symbols instead of just memorizing the words. I can spell other languages almost perfectly, because I spell phonetically. But not English.

        1. I’ve wondered if that’s the cause of my problem with spelling.

        2. I have been told that, because of its many and varied irregular spellings, spelling bees are unique to English.

          And thanks to standardized spelling largely becoming a thing shortly after American independence, the right answer can depend on where you are.

        3. I have the reverse problem. There are a lot of words I’ve learned to spell by pronouncing them the way I would expect them to be pronounced, given their spelling.

        4. I must admit I love the explanation that English spelling is not (or only somewhat) phonetic but etymological.

      3. Even the audibles get it wrong sometimes. I forget which one it was, but when they first started coming out on disc one was trying to tell me that the capital of South Dakota was pronounced ‘pee-air’. Now of course it’s spelled Pierre which in most other situations would indeed be pronounced ‘pee-air’, but as any resident of SD could tell you, it’s pronounced ‘peer’ as if it were spelled Pier.

        Of course, SDans have a tendency to add Rs where they’re not needed, as in when it becomes time to warsh the car and change the earl (probably migrated from Boston where they pahk the cah). But it doesn’t usually get into the spelling.

        1. Try Eldorado Arkansas, or Cairo Illinois, or San Bernardino California…

          The inhabitants don’t pronounce the names anything like the spelling would have you expect…

            1. One little town on my old route: “Maryville.” Save, if you’re from there. Then, what you hear is “Marvel.” *grin*

          1. The time I was refueling in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and asked the clerk where this town I’d been hearing about on the radio, pronounced ‘Nack-i-tosh’ was. Got a very strange look.

            Or the time I drove straight through the town of Acorn, Arkansas while looking for the town of Eicherd where I was told to visit with some friends.

            Same road trip, as it happens.

              1. I think what you got there is Nacogdoches, Texas which is an entirely different breed of town.

                  1. Well, apparently they’re both called after a local Indian, uh, Native American, uh, First People’s tribe, I s’poze one from the French and one from the Spanish transliteration of the name.

          2. Bewney, Tennessee. I grew up near there. It’s spelled “Buena Vista.” (The “Vista” is silent.)

          3. Oh, California is more interesting that that. It’s full of Spanish names that are not only pronounced differently than they would be in Spanish, they’re pronounced inconsistently different. So you have Los Angeles, loss ann-jell-ess, and Los Gatos, lowss gah-toes (where the “a” is the same as in “rat”.) Both incorrect for Spanish, and both incorrect differently.

            1. I remember reading one of the Hornblower stories where Hornblower was very careful about pronouncing foreign language place names.

              Thanks to Hornblower’s knowledge of French & Spanish he knew how they should be pronounced.

              But he pronounced them as his officers and crew would pronounce them so there would be no mistakes in his orders. 😀

    2. And then there’s Sean Bean, who can’t make up his mind how to pronounce “ea”.

      1. I think I told the story about my cousin, Sean, who worked with another guy, Jean Sean, switched to going by his middle name as an adult… they “invented” the middle name, you see. John-shawn. He was amazed to find my cousin spelling it he same way. (I can’t remember his last name, though.)

    3. I had the same difficulty with Sean for the longest time. I eventually decided that it must be the same sort of thing as the French “Jean.”

      That said, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a name that everyone can pronounce. I had a friend in high school named Amanda, which you would think would be among the easiest names in English to pronounce. However, during the AP tests, when the proctor was calling attendance, he got this horrified look at seeing her name, thought for a moment, and called out, “Awww-MON-da?”

      1. That’s the Spanish way of saying it, or at least Mexican.

        A cousin has a mini-rant about how she’s got the worlds hardest to misspell name, and people STILL can’t get it right. Triggers every time someone at a food place asks for a name and won’t accept her last name.

        1. With so many people having two last names or two first names, I’m surprised they could tell…

        2. Maiden name six letters long, pronounced exactly as it was spelled. Continually mispronounced, because people thought it was French and dropped the terminal T. (All of about 150 people in the U.S. with that last name, according to census scrapers, and all of them are within a couple of degrees of cousinship. Really rare.)

          1. Speaking of the silent terminal T …

            Story out of early-Thirties Hollywood: actress Jean Harlow approaches co-star Franchot Tone*, declaring “Fran-shot, how delightful to meet you.” Tone replies, “That’s Fran-show, Jean. The T is silent, the same as in harlot.”

            *Possibly best remembered for his performance alongside Charles Laughton and Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty.

    4. It’s been a few years since my Irish language class, but, if I have this correct, the Irish ‘s’ makes a ‘sh’ sound when followed by a vowel. So ‘Sean’ was originally pronounced something like ‘she-an’, which was then corrupted to ‘shawn’.

        1. Oh, and we named our son Padreic, after the old form of Patrick, and decided we’d rather pronounce it “puh-DRAY-ick.” If we were Irish, it would be pronounced “Porrig.” Like some demented breakfast cereal…

    5. It took me years to realize “blaggard” and “blackguard” were the same word. As well as many others that I just had the wrong pronunciation to.

      1. Some Naval terms are good for that, e.g. Gunwale = ‘gunnel’ and Boatswain = ‘bosun’.

        1. That last got me for quite a while, too. (And then I had a brief period where I was reading “bosun” for “boson” for a while. That led to my last vision Rx change, and laying off of the sea fiction for a while…)

          1. Gauge, for me.

            And also “matron”. I’d taken Latin for several years, and “mater” just doesn’t have the same vowels….

    6. I have been fascinated watching the Kid fighting with the Spanish language. She soaks up vocabulary like a sponge but canNOT grok the way that letters she knows make different sounds in Spanish. I’m firmly convinced it’s tied to her bookworm habits; she can remember the meanings of the words with no problem, but she has real trouble trying to reproduce Spanish pronunciation. And an 11-year-old with a pronounced North Carolina accent trying to read a Spanish weather report out loud is…interesting.

      1. I took to English like a duck to water, save for one thing: I was in my third year when I suddenly realized it wasn’t read like Portuguese.
        Until then people used to giggle when I tried to read. Suddenly in the middle of reading a page it CLICKED> Okay, I still have an accent, but I do okay.

      2. I had the exact opposite problem with Spanish in high school. I’ve always been amused by accents**, so being able to say the words correctly wasn’t all that much of a stretch for me. My problem was remembering all the darn words quickly enough to form sentences out of them. The next semester my Dad took me in to sign up for classes and Senora Clay (the Spanish teacher) practically ran across the gymnasium and tried to drag me into the line to sign up for Spanish II. When I told her “You gave me a D- in Spanish! Do you have any idea how many beatings that D- got me?” She replied “But I’ve been teaching Spanish for ten years… and you are the only student I’ve ever had who could ACTUALLY SAY THE WORDS!” Sorry for her, at the time only one semester of a foreign language was required and a D- sucks, BUT technically it’s a passing grade and there is NO WAY I was going to willingly sign up for a class that was just going to cause me more grief when report cards came out.

        Funny thing is, I rather regretted that decision a few years later when I met (and eventually married) a girl from Mexico and ended up being stuck living in a small apartment with her incessantly watching Mexican soap operas. You would think that I would have picked it up eventually, but nope, I was never able to grok it.

        Another funny thing is, I learned NOT to tell people that I didn’t speak Spanish… IN SPANISH! It was one of a few phrases I was able to remember, but because I was able to say it convincingly enough people tended to think I was kidding.

        **Because of my love for accents, I watched a LOT of Monty Python as a kid, practicing the accents. Having never met anyone from England, I thought I was getting it down pretty good. Years later, it finally occurred to me that the accents on Monty Python are over-done for comedy purposes, and almost nobody REALLY sounds like that in real life.

        1. I don’t know why it took until just now, nor why reading this comment made me realize it, but Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce never spoke with a Maine accent. I’d read the novel(s) and should have realized it …

          If you want some fun with accents, the audio productions of Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels are great fun, and the John Curless readings of Louis L’Amour’s first two novels (chronologically) in the Sackett series are terrific. (Sackett’s Land and To The Far Blue Mountains) Worth getting just for the pleasure of listening to the accents.

          1. Sigh – that link to the Redwall book didn’t quite come out the way I’d hoped, but it offers a fifteen minute sample.

            The L’Amour link probably won’t work, either, visually, but it, too, provides a fifteen minute taste.

            If only WP offered a preview function so that we could see whether or no a link or HTML coding functioned as desired, but that would be useful and that mustn’t be.

            WP Delenda Est.

          2. I LOVE the Redwall books. I didn’t discover them until I was an adult, but I have gone through and read most of them (perhaps all of them, I’ve lost track). I’ve always thought that audibles for them would be awesome. Unfortunately, I can’t see paying anywhere near what they are asking for them to listen to someone read a book that I already own and could read myself.

            I REALLY tried to get my kids into the Redwall books, but they were totally not interested. So much so, that at 6 years old, my youngest didn’t care if I read one of the “Mouse Books” (as we called them) or Atlas Shrugged for her bedtime story. If I wasn’t going to read Dora, she was just going to roll over and ignore me (which totally worked, since by doing so she would fall right to sleep).

        2. Another funny thing is, I learned NOT to tell people that I didn’t speak Spanish… IN SPANISH! It was one of a few phrases I was able to remember, but because I was able to say it convincingly enough people tended to think I was kidding.

          Maybe that’s why it works when I do it….

          After hearing me murder “I have very, very little Spanish; very, very bad Spanish” most people switch to English right off the bat.

          I have some vocabulary– most of it rude– but I can’t say most of it, and half the time I can’t hear the difference between two similar words.

  15. I live within the boundaries of an Indian pueblo. Most folks differentiate between pueblo, Dine (AKA Navajo), and Apache by name, and those that don’t use Indian. And many folks can tell the difference, either physically or by language.

    My kids school had signs on the classroom walls in three languages, Spanish, English, and Tewa (one of the two common pueblo languages here in New Mexico).

    1. Yep. Physically and linguistically (OK, they are both of the Athabaskan group – but even more distinct than, say, Deep South American and Liverpudlian…)

      Also, don’t ever mistake a White Mountain Apache for a San Carlos Apache, or vice-versa. The resulting reaction is rarely pretty.

      1. “Also, don’t ever mistake a White Mountain Apache for a San Carlos Apache, or vice-versa”
        I was wandering one time in the Jicarilla reservation and stopped to help a stranded motorist. Turns out he was San Ildefonso Pueblo, and wanted nothing to do with the Apaches. He wife was Jicarilla and was visiting relatives in Dulce, and he couldn’t go. Lent him my spare tire and followed him back to San Ildefonso and got my tire back.

  16. > short bus

    It took me at least ten years to catch on to that one after I started seeing it online.

    When you grew up in mostly rural areas, *most* buses were “short” buses’ it didn’t make economic sense to run a 50-foot monster along a route with only a dozen kids on it. (route determined by time, not by number of kids)

    So, somehow a group got “mainstreamed” and “abled”, but they also got their own toilets, water fountains, and buses.

    Somehow, the situation seems familiar…

  17. Sounds to me like you want a name that was in use and more accurate. Have you considered “redskin”?

  18. On pondering much of the above the following comes to mind:

    Oh, why can’t the English learn to
    set a good example to people whose
    English is painful to your ears?
    The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears
    There are places where English completely disappears.
    Well, in America, they haven’t used it for years!</Blockquote?

  19. Westerns are one of the genres I read in quantity. Recently one had cavalry officers referring to “Mr. Lo” and “Lo.” A main female character from the East kept wondering when she’d meet this gentleman and if he was Chinese and why the cavalry expected him to appear in so many places across the prairies. Supposedly it was a reference to “Lo! The poor Indian” by men struggling in the fight against a formidable enemy. I have no idea if such a name was ever really used or if it came from that author’s imagination, but it was a clever touch.

      1. Googled a bit, could it be?:

        Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor’d mind
        by Alexander Pope

        Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor’d mind
        Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
        His soul proud Science never taught to stray
        Far as the solar walk or milky way;
        Yet simple nature to his hope has giv’n,
        Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler Heav’n,
        Some safer world in depth of woods embraced,
        Some happier island in the wat’ry waste,
        Where slaves once more their native land behold,
        No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
        To be, contents his natural desire;
        He asks no Angel’s wing, no Seraph’s fire;
        But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
        His faithful dog shall bear him company.

        There also appears to be a poem by the Rev. Geo. Mason, M.A., of the same title.

  20. “Of course, it is easier to change “Indian” into “Native American” and congratulate yourself on your own tolerance and open mindedness than to ascertain what tribe you’re speaking about and use that name.”
    Especially if you’ve never actually *met* any.
    Real people who you regularly interact with don’t tend to like it when you use them as an excuse to be a dick.

  21. I remember first reading and hearing the word “pompous” attached, to older, somewhat overweight, self-important men. So, I assumed it was a way of saying overweight. It was years before I heard it describing a guy who was skinny, and had to look up the real meaning.

    1. To be fair, there’s something about the word “pompous”, to my English ears, at least, that almost makes the word sound puffy…

      1. False onomatipeia, I think it’s called. And I’ve speculated it’s a wider ranging phenomenon than the linguists say. Like the fact that so many Yiddish words sound insulting and funny at the same time–Jewish comedians really did have a head start…

  22. Talking about meaning, what does race really mean? It changes with time. I just double checked an ancestors 1921 Canadian census record, where one of the columns is Race or Tribal origin. On that one page is listed the following races- Scotch, Irish, English, Dutch. Or, as we called them in the 1920 U.S. census- white.

    On the page before in that Canadian census there are French, also white in U.S. parlance, and Assyrian. Assyrian- white, black, or Asian in 1920 America? Honestly, I don’t know.

    It’s why I refer to myself as American and not anything else. My ancestors were Dutch, Irish, Scotch, English, Welsh, German. and French so far from what I can trace. I have read that anywhere in the UK a native can tell the difference at a glance between Scotch, Irish, English, and Welsh, and probably what part of England. We can’t do that here. At least I can’t.

    1. Nod, I don’t think I was the first here to point out that “race” has been used differently in the past.

      IE, the English Race, the French Race, the German Race, etc.

      1. Oh yes. It was much more a shorthand for culture (see the British and the “Martian races” which included Zulu, Sikh, Maori and others) than for genetics, well into the late 19th century. Thus you could get Jewish, a religion, that was considered a race. Color/genetics/breeding/whatever did not become semi-exclusive for race until the 20th century.

        1. Getting the kids these days to understand this very fact has led to some eye opening. Reading Kipling, or anything of the time without this knowledge has led to quite the difficulty.

          1. TXRed meant “Martial Races”. IE Cultures that possessed good warriors. The Brits admired Non-White Cultures that showed a willingness to fight and the ability to fight.

              1. It could be worse, it could have been “marital” not “martial”. 😉

              2. Seems appropriate
                Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)
                Soudan Expeditionary Force

                WE ’VE fought with many men acrost the seas,
                An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not,
                The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
                But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot.
                We never got a ha’porth’s change of ’im: 5
                ’E squatted in the scrub an’ ’ocked our ’orses,
                ’E cut our sentries up at Suakim,
                An’ ’e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
                So ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
                You ’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man; 10
                We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
                We ’ll come an’ ’ave a romp with you whenever you ’re inclined.

                We took our chanst among the Kyber ’ills,
                The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
                The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills, 15
                An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:
                But all we ever got from such as they
                Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
                We ’eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
                But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ’oller. 20
                Then ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
                Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
                We sloshed you with Martinis, an’ it was n’t ’ardly fair;
                But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square.

                ’E ’as n’t got no papers of ’is own, 25
                ’E ’as n’t got no medals nor rewards,
                So we must certify the skill ’e ’s shown
                In usin’ of ’is long two-’anded swords:
                When ’e ’s ’oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
                With ’is coffin-’eaded shield an’ shovel-spear, 30
                An ’appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
                Will last an ’ealthy Tommy for a year.
                So ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
                If we ’ad n’t lost some messmates we would ’elp you to deplore;
                But give an’ take ’s the gospel, an’ we ’ll call the bargain fair, 35
                For if you ’ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

                ’E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
                An’, before we know, ’e ’s ’ackin’ at our ’ead;
                ’E ’s all ’ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
                An’ ’e ’s generally shammin’ when ’e ’s dead. 40
                ’E ’s a daisy, ’e ’s a ducky, ’e ’s a lamb!
                ’E ’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
                ’E ’s the on’y thing that does n’t give a damn
                For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
                So ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan; 45
                You ’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
                An’ ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air—
                You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

            1. As, for instance:

              “We’ve fought with many men acrost the seas,
              An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not:
              The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
              But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot.
              We never got a ha’porth’s change of ‘im:
              ‘E squatted in the scrub an’ ‘ocked our ‘orses,
              ‘E cut our sentries up at Suakim,
              An’ ‘e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
              So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
              You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
              We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
              We’ll come an’ ‘ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

              We took our chanst among the Khyber ‘ills,
              The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
              The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills,
              An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:
              But all we ever got from such as they
              Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
              We ‘eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
              But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ‘oller.
              Then ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
              Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
              We sloshed you with Martinis, an’ it wasn’t ‘ardly fair;
              But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square.

              ‘E ‘asn’t got no papers of ‘is own,
              ‘E ‘asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
              So we must certify the skill ‘e’s shown
              In usin’ of ‘is long two-‘anded swords:
              When ‘e’s ‘oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
              With ‘is coffin-‘eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
              An ‘appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
              Will last an ‘ealthy Tommy for a year.
              So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
              If we ‘adn’t lost some messmates we would ‘elp you to deplore.
              But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
              For if you ‘ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

              ‘E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
              An’, before we know, ‘e’s ‘ackin’ at our ‘ead;
              ‘E’s all ‘ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
              An’ ‘e’s generally shammin’ when ‘e’s dead.
              ‘E’s a daisy, ‘e’s a ducky, ‘e’s a lamb!
              ‘E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
              ‘E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
              For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
              So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
              You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
              An’ ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air —
              You big black boundin’ beggar — for you broke a British square!”

      2. The English Race?

        Many of Welsh, Irish, Scots and Pictish descent demur.

        I presume it would be gratuitous to perform the same exercise for the French and German populations.

        1. I was talking about “how the term race was used” not about “what race is”. 😉

          Of course, “English Race” can first be considered a group name for the Angles, Saxons & Jutes who successful managed to invade Celtic Britain (mixed with the Celtics who lived there).

          Then you have to add the Danes who managed to control large parts of what we now call England.

          While the Saxon Kings managed to prevent themselves from being conquered by the Danes, the language differences within the English language appears to show that some of the Danes remained in England after the Saxon Victory.

          Then we have to add the forces of that Frenchified Viking William the Bastard. Not all of William’s forces were nobles so likely got involved with Saxon Barmaids.

          Then of course, those idiot Scots & Welsh didn’t stay “where they belonged” and added their genes to the “English mix”. 😀

      3. Nods, and even within such nations. The Bavarian, for example, did not consider himself part of the same people as the Prussian and visa-versa.

    2. In the spirit of “the smallest minority is the individual”, I sometimes like to refer to myself as “Alphesian” in the “other” category, if not “American”.

  23. Probably read WAY TOO MUCH as a young person, oops still do. Anyway, did anyone else read “Geoffrey” and sound it to yourself as Gee-off-free? and “Penelope” as Pen-el-Lope? Did not learn how to pronounce those two names correctly until I was an adult. Oddly enough, my daughter read both names exactly like I had when her age. We enjoyed very satisfying laughs over them. Must be genetics or maybe aliens? Enjoyed comments very much. Hard to avoid making a perjorative remark these days without meaning to sometimes.

    1. If I had not been already acquainted with the name the first time I came across it I would probably have read Geoffrey as Je-off-ray, which is not much better.

      The Daughter, who was an automatic reader had trouble with certain words with French origins, for example she saw ballet as Ball-let and crochet as crow-shet.

    2. Because of Harry Potter movies, there is an entire generation of American children who now know the correct pronunciation of Hermione.

  24. Depending on where and when and who’s speaking in the 19th Century, “injuns” was a common term. It even showed up in river navigation “Bow Injun” and “Bow White,” a reference to who held which side of the river. Sometimes they would just call “Injun!” or “White!”

    What would be wrong with referencing each by their nation? You could get some nuances out of that. There was bad blood between the Cherokee and the Creek, and they weren’t an isolated case. There were factions within each nation as well, And then there were complications due to marriage.

    1. “You could get some nuances out of that. There was bad blood between the Cherokee and the Creek, and they weren’t an isolated case.”

      Yes, but that would require acknowledging that Indians were as capable of possessing negative traits as Europeans, and we couldn’t possibly do that.

  25. My favorite dead-tree dictionaries are the American Heritage (5th ed.) and New Oxford American (2nd ed.) – either can be read or browsed for pleasure. The American Dialect Society has an interesting mailing list (if you don’t mind wading through the competitive academic “what was the first written instance of” assorted words and phrases

  26. The pronunciation of baleia (Portuguese for whale)

    To add to the American indian and India indian thing, for centuries (at least until the late 1700’s) the word indio, the Portuguese equivalent of indian, was also used to mean anyone east of the cape of Good Hope, so you had indians from Ethiopia, or Java, or Japan, and of course also from India and the Americas. It makes reading documents of the time real fun since it wasn’t often made clear about what kind of indian they where talking about. :0)

    Rui Jorge

  27. “In fact, from a scientific point of view we have more than enough proof that the people’s Europeans found…”

    What’s with “people’s”? Is there an apostrophe rule I don’t know about. I would not mention it except that the author is… well, an author. And a well-regarded one apparently.

    1. Yeah, the author is an author who writes these posts before coffee and in the case of this post while renovating a house.
      I’m glad you’re perfect, bud. Me, I need copyeditors. If that apostrophe is all you found, I must have been on fire that day.
      Any other contribution to make to the conversation or is this a case of eats, shoots and leaves?

      1. Ah, another post infested by feral apostrophes. Dang things sneak in and before you know it they’ve propagated throughout an essay. Authorities differ on whether the feral apostrophe is an unique pest or is merely a form of comma (another pernicious species) which tends to get high.

          1. Now sweetie fess up. Your prose is perfect. Some of us minions intentionally insert typos as troll bait to see what we might catch. And seems we have a winner with dickless Ray here. Takes a real dyed in the wool asshole to pop into a free blog and bitch about a single misplaced apostrophe.

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