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#199369 - 04/24/11 09:27 PM Re: pariah [Re: Mowgli]
Candy Offline

Registered: 09/21/10
Posts: 1706
Loc: down under

This week's Email of the Week is from Mowgli, who will finally get his well-deserved Comeuppance - eight ounces of poetic justice, sent Priority Mail and unconditionally guaranteed.

I really enjoyed researching and the discussion around this word.

#199370 - 04/24/11 09:48 PM Re: pariah [Re: Candy]
Candy Offline

Registered: 09/21/10
Posts: 1706
Loc: down under
Also I am adding the editorial from this weeks AWAD. because some people may not subscribe to it and I think its important.

My understanding is that the word pariah is used in the sense that someone is an outcast, not necessarity for a morally repugnant act. A plain-dressed woman could be a pariah in a Hollywood fashion party. But the deeper issue you raise is about using someone's name in a generic sense, as an eponym. We've featured hundreds of eponyms in the past. These eponyms may convey positive or negative qualities. The issue becomes thorny when a particular quality is ascribed to a whole community. For example, see: pharisaical and helot .
Pharisees are no more so we can perhaps get away with using the word. A Helot could move to another city, say Athens, and shed his connection to the town of Helos and the image it conjures. But the way the caste system works, a member of the Paraiyar caste, after which the word pariah is coined, could no more leave the caste he was born in than a man could change the color of his skin.

So what about the word pariah? The term is too well-established, in the English language, and in a number of fields, such as math ( Pariah group ), international relations ( Pariah state ), animal breeds ( Pariah dog ), among others. As you indicate, most people who use the term are unaware of its origin, even people from the southern states in India where the Paraiyar live. Does the fact that the word has wide currency give us the latitude to ignore its offensiveness to the people after whom it was coined?

I consulted a number of people, including some from the state of Tamil Nadu, where the word came from. V. Balakrishnan, a professor at IIT Chennai wrote, "It's a little like the word negro, which has, of course, lost all its literal meaning and is today entirely pejorative. In that sense, pariah, too, is a word that perhaps deserves to be consigned to oblivion through benign neglect."

Lakshmi Gopal, a professional editor and English instructor said, "When I first went to the US, I didn't realise that the word Negro is not to be used unless you wanted to end up in ER -- for me Negro was just a word signifying people who originated in Nigeria. If the entire world is to be aware and accept the fact that the words Negro or nigger are insulting, what's wrong in expecting the entire world to be aware that pariah is insulting to a community in India?"

Finally, Ashok Mahadevan, retired chief editor of Reader's Digest India told me, "It seems wrong not to point it out just because the Paraiyar community doesn't have much clout in the West (or perhaps even in India). In fact, although I rarely use the word, I'm now going to stop using it altogether. After all, there are plenty of alternatives."

So, many thanks for raising this issue and sharing your thoughts. We've now added a note and a link to this discussion in the entry for the word pariah.
-Anu Garg

I rarely hear this word either, but when I do, I will remember how it has become a derogative word and use my knowledge to educate the user.

#199371 - 04/24/11 09:49 PM Re: pariah [Re: Mowgli]
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Yes, congratulations indeed!

#199390 - 04/25/11 10:58 AM Re: pariah [Re: Jackie]
LukeJavan8 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 8541
Loc: Land of the Flat Water
Originally Posted By: Jackie
Yes, congratulations indeed!

I saw it too, and am proud of you as well.
----please, draw me a sheep----

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