Posted By: michaelo orphan - 08/03/00 01:01 AM
A search of the AWADTalk database and archives shows zero hits for word "orphan."

In addition to being burdened with my parents' death I also had to suffer the awful weight of being categorized as an orphan since I was five. Sadly, my parents committed suicide and it was the mid-60s and the orphan designation carried a lot of baggage and implications. I was so young but even then it seemed wretched to be called an orphan. Now the word still seems archaic and Dickensian. The worst threat to me as a child was to be sent to "the orphanage."

The word "orphan" doesn't seem to be in current usage and it seems that news reporters somehow can reveal family tragedies without using the word even when it's "appropriate." As much as I despise the word, my experience of being an orphan was every bit Dickensian as the word evokes. Now it seems like being an orphan is one of our last taboos and children with dead parents go on to live happily ever after with their favorite aunt, simple and done as that. I know that this can't be the case in reality. I suspect that orphans are still maligned by the public and aren't the topic of choice at cocktail parties. Also, one doesn't read about orphans in the news, there isn't a TV show about them, and Hollywood treats them as a relic from the 19th century.

So here are my questions: Is the term "orphan" being abandoned? or is it that the phenomenon of a child having both parents die just an extremely rare occurrence in western civilization? what word has replaced it? or, as I have mentioned, is this simply taboo territory?

michaelo (newbie)

Posted By: Jackie Re: orphan - 08/03/00 01:44 AM
Welcome, mike-o. Good to have you aBoard.

Having spent most of my working life in Child Protective
Services, I'll offer kind of an insider's view. Though not from the perspective of a resident, fortunately for me.

I believe the term orphan has slipped from common use because the term orphanage is not used any more, or only
rarely. And this, I think, is because the word orphanage
developed a well-deserved pejorative connotation. (This puts me in mind of the political correctness thread.) I have very little information on this, but I know that in the
fifties, there was something in the U.S. called the Orphan
Train, which was well-known for dispatching children to all sorts of places, and not all of them were carefully scrutinized to ensure that they really were orphans.
In the first half of this century, there was very little
oversight of who was sent to live in orphanages, or of the treatment they received once they got there. There was also very little checking as to the quality of homes the orphanage children were adopted out to.

Today, orphanages are "children's homes". A bereft child is not generally called an orphan, but is spoken of as being in the custody of a relative, or having been placed at a children's home.

Posted By: michaelo Re: orphan - 08/03/00 03:16 AM
Thanks, Jackie. I guess the point is that a single word has evolved into a phrase or even a sentence. The "custody" designation is more catch-all and includes children with living parents who may be in jail, addicted, irresponsible or stupid. In other words, the specific word for children with dead parents is (will be) lost to usage. This trend from the specific to the broad doesn't seem to follow the general trend of active language.

Posted By: Jackie Re: orphan - 08/03/00 12:30 PM
michael, I think you're right--mostly, the trend is toward the ultra-specific.
I do have to say something about your use of word stupid, though. To me, that almost implies deliberately doing something well, stupid, by someone who at least ought to have known better. The word can also be used,
(here comes that political correctness thing again) pejoratively, to mean mentally deficient. In other words, a
person who is literally "stupid" cannot know better. In this case I really prefer the more politically correct terms. One time I had to testify in front of a set of parents that their children should be removed permanently because they were literally incapable of learning to care for the children adequately. It was one of the hardest things I ever did in that job.

Posted By: william Re: orphan - 08/03/00 02:14 PM
i'm very interested that this was brought up. it seems to me that kids get the rough end of the pineapple in many things, including language. orphan seems to be being (is that a tense - please tell me!) replaced with sentences like "his parents have died", or even more oblique ones "he lives with his grandparents. but i think, with all respect to your situation, michaelo, it's not as common these days for both parents to die and leave children.
using the word orphan would seem to be a lead in to a sweeping saga, and perhaps there were so many of these, and too many parodies like G and S, that milked its pathos for effect, that the word can't be used without those connotations any more.
a junior high school boy killed himself in japan this week (not before writing "help" in english on the phone message pad at home). his principal suggested he was easily bullied and seemed not to take it seriously.
i really believe that children are one of the groups yet to be liberated. we use animal sounding words for them: kid, ankle biter; whereas words like bird, bunny are clearly seen as derogatory for women, pillow biter an insult to gays. adults think "kid" is cute, but no children like to be called that.
and we silence them with "when you're older" or "you're too young to understand", if they even try to use our own language against us.
not to mention forced congregation in "schools".
words can change but only after attitudes change. in fact words are probably a clear indication of our attitudes.
jackie, since you have some experience in this field, why is it we can still get away with treating children in ways we couldn't treat other people?

Posted By: jackiemw Re: orphan - 08/03/00 02:29 PM
This is an interesting discussion. I teach in a school for incarcerated female adolescents, many of whom are "undomiciled." That's not a synonym for orphan, though. It may include girls who have no living parents but also those whose parents are unknown as well. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Posted By: Jackie Re: orphan - 08/03/00 03:15 PM
>>, why is it we can still get away with treating children in ways we couldn't treat other people?

The ultimate answer is simple, william: Children are
dependent. They are dependent for their very lives. They are not physically or mentally capable of caring adequately for themselves. They are nowhere near to being on an equal power base with adults.

There is a lot more that could be said, but this is really the core, so I'll stop now. P'raps others would care to
put their views---

Posted By: Brandon Re: orphan - 08/03/00 05:21 PM

Is the orphan of "orphan drug" related to the parentless definition of orphan? I can stretch the two definitions together, but I am interested in a more definitive answer.

excerpted Gurunet reference: Orphan drugs, developed under the U.S. Orphan Drug Act (1983), treat diseases that affects a relatively small number of people. The terms of the orphan drug law offer tax breaks and a seven-year monopoly on drug sales to induce companies to undertake development and manufacturing of such drugs, which otherwise might not be profitable.

Posted By: jmh Re: orphan - 08/03/00 08:29 PM
On the subject of other uses of the word - Printers and publishing software use the term "widows and orphans" for single lines left at the ends or beginnings of pages.

I always feel a little sad when I select the widows & orphans option!

Posted By: michaelo Re: orphan - 08/04/00 04:04 AM
"Stupid" is worthy of attention. I'll bet there are plenty of mentally deficient parents doing an admirable job of raising children. I perhaps used the word "stupid" too casually for a text-based discussion. I was thinking of a news story where 2 supposedly "normal" parents left an 8-year-old to take care of a 2-year-old while they went on a weekend getaway skiing trip. These children ended up in family services.

I hear and read the word "stupid" so often I guess I have become numb to its core meaning. Also, being marginally trained in psychology/psychiatry nomenclature I am very specific when referring to mental conditions or states. Other words that come to mind are "idiot" "moron" and "cretin" but these too come from a rather clinical background.

It's difficult for me to think of a word, one with import and feeling, that describes those that are selfish, rude, discompassionate, one-sided, etc. "Unthoughtful" is way too nice; "jerk" a little childish; and the current usage of "vulgar" isn't accurate.

My initial post spawned from the "PC" discussion and I guess this is PC issue also. So what's the PC word preference for "stupid" one that's not demeaning to other groups but one that is forceful and shows disgust?


PS: This is a great group! I spent over 4 hours reading
way too many posts into the wee hours last night.

Posted By: jmh Re: stupid - 08/04/00 07:25 AM
Unfortunately "stupid" is a popular term amongst children here with no concept of any deeper meaning. I remember one of my friend's children using the word and his father called out "Don't you ever dare call me that word again!" - he was a farmer (and probably what is known as a "late developer") he had unhappy memories of school-teachers who had kept him in the "stupid" group. The word was banned in our house too, thereafter. The children were young at the time - we said "silly", which is what they really meant, was much better.

I was often called an "idiot" by my mother - Rubrick will know the proper Irish pronunciation - "eejot". The word meant different things depending on how it was said - fortunately, usually with a smile whilst laughing at my latest "antics".

I was called a "Dundork loafer" (0 matches when googled) if I was sloping around the house or a "Belfast fishwoman" if making too much noise. I'm also not proud of my aunt's favourite term "ten ton Tessie"! I think it was normal to attatch names to people in the way that modern child development research teaches us to address the behaviour not the person - "That's a silly thing to do" not "You are silly".

Words like "moron" and "mongol" and "spastic" sound much more medical, so I suspect that stupid largely escaped into ordinary language a long time ago. I think the good thing about PC terminology is that it unlikely to hear one child shout to another "You're a person with Cerebral palsy" in the same way that "you spas" was common in the playground when I was growing up.

.... Amazing that we've survived into (arguably) reasonable adults at all, isn't it!

Posted By: Jackie Re: stupid - 08/04/00 01:19 PM
Jo, since this is a thread about children, I'll continue the topic. Why on earth is it that children so often feel the need to be cruel to one another? Is it because they need to show some form of power, since they have no power over adults? I hope your children don't get upset if they are teased about being in a Scottish school.

I'll tell you, I'm beginning to think that I must be even luckier than I thought, reading some of the things you were called as a child, and recalling children of friends calling their siblings ugly names. That almost never happened among my friends and family. (It did with my schoolmates, but not all of them were friends I played with.) Someone recently wrote to me that she wasn't raised to be encouraging, and--this goes to show my naivete/"stupid-ness", I guess--I was very surprised. For all of my life, this is simply the way things were: no more thought was given to it than to breathing. Playing neighborhood ball games, we'd all be calling, "Nice throw", "good try", and so on. All of us kids did it, and all the important adults in my life did it. The adults were not only encouraging to us children, I got to witness their example of being encouraging to one another. And I am now more grateful than ever to them, because I have never really considered that I might be an entirely different person if not for them being the way they were.

My children have NEVER been allowed to call anyone an ugly name, especially not each other. They have known from their earliest ability to understand that I consider this hurtful. So far, I can say that they seem to be growing up into reasonable beings (not quite adults yet). It is simply beyond my comprehension to think of being deliberately cruel.

And yet, your history may be a perfect example of a point made in Political Correctness: those terms were used with no thought whatsoever to the possible effects on their recipients. And now, the mind of the public has begun the change to realization that these ought to be dispensed with.

Posted By: tsuwm Re: orphan - 08/04/00 02:42 PM
>So what's the PC word preference for "stupid" one that's not demeaning to other groups but one that is forceful and shows disgust?

fortunately(?), there is no dearth of words for the concept; here's a selection from Merriam-Webster:

SIMPLE, FOOLISH, SILLY, FATUOUS, ASININE mean actually or apparently deficient in intelligence. SIMPLE implies a degree of intelligence inadequate to cope with anything complex or involving mental effort <considered people simple who had trouble with computers>. FOOLISH implies the character of being or seeming unable to use judgment, discretion, or good sense <foolish stunts>. SILLY suggests failure to act as a rational being especially by ridiculous behavior <the silly antics of revelers>. FATUOUS implies foolishness, inanity, and disregard of reality <fatuous conspiracy theories>. ASININE suggests utter and contemptible failure to use normal rationality or perception <an asinine plot>.

or, one could resort to this infamous internet rant:

"Sir you are an apogenous, bovaristic, coprolalial, dasypygal, excerebrose, facinorous, gnathonic, hircine, ithypahallic, jumentous, kyphotic, labrose, mephitic, napiform, oligophrenial, papuliferous, quisquilian, rebarbative, saponaceous, thersitical, unguinous, ventripotent, wlatsome, xylocephalous, yirning, zoophyte."

or, we could just invent some tsupid new word...

Posted By: tsuwm Re: orphan - 08/04/00 03:01 PM
>Is the orphan of "orphan drug" related to the parentless definition of orphan? I can stretch the two definitions together, but I am interested in a more definitive answer.

I seem to be impaled on the horns of a virtual prisoner's dilemna: should I cooperate by posting my opinion as a "service" to Brandon, or should I answer with a flippant YCLIU? (there was the third option of remaining silent in hopes that an expert in pharmacology law, or even a legislator, would eventually wander along and post a definitive reply; but I've blown that one).

anyway, my theory is that orphan drugs are so-named because of the neglect and abandonment they received due to perceived unprofitability. that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.


Posted By: michaelo Re: orphan - 08/04/00 10:09 PM
I guess I'll stick with "stupid" as a forceful universal term for venting aloud in the vernacular.

Also, with a gender change, I would wear the "Belfast fishwoman" badge with glee and honor.

However, I will definitely think about using the infamous internet rant jamboree of words in my next letter to the editor.



Posted By: Jackie Re: orphan - 08/05/00 12:23 AM
Well, where to start, Tsuwm?
A rant first, I think: I hope you do not again put your apellation as 'tsu'-pid. It affronts and offends me, and besides it is an untruth. Tsu-nami was a borderline joke--this is not in the least bit funny. Thank you.

>>should I cooperate by posting my opinion as a "service" to Brandon, or should I answer with a flippant YCLIU? You are certainly allowed to do whichever one you wish, my dear. Methinks you have been doing some internalizing. Every person has the choice of whether to change or not, according to information received. I'll give you an A for effort, at the very least.

>>impaled on the horns of a virtual prisoner's dilemna Gee, if you had read about that question in a book, would you now be in a printed-matter prisoner's dilemma?

Posted By: jmh Re: Belfast Fishwoman - 08/05/00 03:11 PM
>Also, with a gender change, I would wear the "Belfast fishwoman" badge with glee and honor.

As (I hope) I said. the term was never used in anger. I can't really remember if it was a Belfast fishwoman or a Belfast fisherwoman. I have half a mind (no comments, thank you) to go to Belfast and seek one out. I'd love to meet one, if such a person still exists. I doubt my mother had ever seen one either. More than likely it was a phrase passed on from her mother who grew up in Ireland.

Rather than being upset by a Dundork loafer, it always made me wonder what one looked like.

I think a tour of Ireland must be on my holiday wish list. if only to uncover the words I heard as a child.

Posted By: william Re: Belfast Fishwoman - 08/05/00 06:06 PM

i think this is wonderful.
may you be blessed by belfast fisherwomen all your life!

it's not easy to turn the words of our childhood around (even if not used in anger) and reclaim them, whatever their real meaning might be.
in any case, belfast fisherwomen must be a breed that sees truth even through the mist, and one that casts nets blithely and with good fortune into a dark sea.

Posted By: jmh Re: Belfast Fishwoman - 08/05/00 09:45 PM
>in any case, belfast fisherwomen must be a breed that sees truth even through the mist, and one that casts nets blithely and with good fortune into a dark seaWilliam

William, where I seek them, there shall I find you. How kind are your thoughts!

Posted By: TEd Remington Re: orphan - 08/06/00 04:00 PM
>So what's the PC word preference for "stupid" one that's not demeaning to other groups but one that is forceful and shows disgust?

Cerebrally challenged?

Or, as I found in biography of Teddy Roosevelt I read a few weeks ago: "He never opens his mouth but he subtracts from the sum of human knowledge."

Posted By: Jackie Re: Belfast Fishwoman - 08/06/00 08:55 PM
>>, belfast fisherwomen must be a breed that sees truth even through the mist, and one that casts nets blithely and with good fortune into a dark sea.

william, there you go again! I hope you are writing or have written something for publication, Dearest. You're

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