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#4324 07/21/00 09:07 PM
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>On the other end of the spectrum is the aide to the mayor of Washington D.C. (who is black) who was summarily dismissed (later to be reinstated) for using the word "niggardly" in reference to a fund he administered.

Interesting choice of example. I just heard on the news that the press are chasing Hillary Clinton for an (alleged) anti-semitic remark she made in 1974.

How does the saying go - The one thing we learn from history is ..


#4325 07/22/00 01:57 AM
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>Of couse many other languages (eg Spanish, French) have many more male and females

In my language of choice (American Sign Language), masculine and feminine pronouns and identifiers do not exist as they do in most spoken languages. People and objects are defined and introduced spatially, not "sexually." If it does contribute to a broader acceptance of men-and-women-on-equal-footing, that contribution may be negated by the fact that most description is visually-based and therefore readily malleable to personal bias.

It goes back to the covert issue; words are not necessary for ill will.


#4326 07/22/00 12:34 PM
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<The one thing we learn from history is >

Jo -- so glad you didn't use 'herstory' (or is it, pedantically, 'hertory'?)


#4327 07/22/00 07:14 PM
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>>IMNSHO<<

I think it is "In My Not So Humble Opinion"

am I right, TEd?

...and in mine, I have always thought that if the newly-coined term describes the person without compromising either the dignity of the person, or of the thing the person is doing/being then it is acceptable.

The situation resembles current day business-speak, which attempts to describe everyday things and events in the most possible words, to make them appear to be more than they are.


#4328 07/22/00 10:21 PM
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>So glad you didn't use 'herstory' (or is it, pedantically, 'hertory'?)

I don't know how many others are around at the moment from Europe. I wonder if we've had less of the silly stuff here than seems to be the case in America (I don't know about Australia & New Zealand).

I think its been a much quieter thing here and although the press are always happy to fill up a few pages during the silly season with "loony left" stories of children not being allowed to use blackboards it has largely gone without too much challenge. In schools, in particular racist or sexist language would make people feel quite uncomfortable.

We still have people being murdered in Europe because of their race or religion. Perhaps we've realised that we have to change our attitudes otherwise "Ethnic Cleansing" could be heading our way next.


#4329 07/23/00 09:03 AM
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>>Perhaps we've realised [in Europe] that we have to change our attitudes otherwise "Ethnic Cleansing" could be heading our way next. <<

Jo, I wish I believed it was as you say - that's such an optimistic way of looking at things.

Having lived in the UK, Japan, Australia, Chicago and Toronto (and now Australia again) I'm not so optimistic. While the fuss about words may be different, there's a lot of overlap in the attitudes.

You could equally well argue (not that I am doing!) that Europe / Australia haven't gone down the PC route because so many people are unconcerned by the use of potentially offensive language.

I did read something once saying that a different ethnic population tended to be tolerated until it reached 15% or more of the total population. At that ratio it could be perceived as a threat and hence discrimination began. This might explain why in the US the strongest racism is against the blacks, in Australia against the Asians (and the Aborigines, but I'm in Sydney, there are far more Asians than Aborigines here and that's the racism I hear more!) and in the UK against the Indian subcontinent races (Pakkis.)

At least, it seems to fit my experience.


#4330 07/23/00 12:29 PM
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Brandon.

Thanks so much for posting. I started learning Australian Sign Language (Auslan) once, and found it the most wonderful language I have come accross. I loved the way verb tenses were indicated spatially, but didn't learn enough to understand the structure of the language.

Would you please outline on a new thread the main differences you know between a signed language and signed or spoken English i.e relating to tenses, sequential vs simultaneous, "physicality" vs auditory, or whatever you think is relevant. I am truly facinated and would really appreciate it.


#4331 07/23/00 12:32 PM
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Very well argued. I think you're raised the crux of the issue.


#4332 07/23/00 01:15 PM
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>Jo, I wish I believed it was as you say - that's such an optimistic way of looking at things.

I'll modify it to "some people" have realised that we have to change our attitudes if you like. There is probably less difference country to country than is between urban and rural areas. I lived in London through the eighties where racial language was high on the political agenda. Over the same period it wasn't much of an issue in rural areas where, as you say, the population was less racially diverse.


#4333 07/23/00 01:48 PM
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>And do we need all these new acronyms? I was merely pointing out that some ways of using language are every bit as irritating to some people (like me) as language which aims to remove gender issues is to others (like you).<

This use of the example of electronic acronyms raises the issues of deep and superficial meanings quite well. (Or to reiterate the "a word is a skin of thought" thread yet again - which is now probably a very tattered skin which is sorry it ever mentioned itself in the first place)

I agree that these acronyms are not particularly visually appealing as a word, nor do they trip off the tongue very easily as a contraction, and not everyone knows what they mean. Yet they are useful, and every subsequant post regarding them has defended their existance as a useful creation.

This contrasts sharply with the derision many of the new words which attempt to redefine nouns within an ideology have received. Words such as: chairwoman, wimmin, and herstory, some of which have been termed "an abomination". I find this facinating.

The emotional charge indicates to me that it is the underlying meaning which is offensive, as the words in themselves are not too awful as words. People know what they mean, you can pronounce them without too much difficulty, and don't have to go out of your way to press the caps lock button.

Yet, most posters (and I am resisting the temptation myself) have somehow distanced themselves from condoning them in any way, as if they somehow go "too far". I am wondering what "too far" is, as the inherent look/feel of the word isn't so bad as words go, compared with, say calling computer bits by numbers and acronyms like a 486dx with 16 MB RAM. What both "wimmin" and 486dx with 16 MB RAM have in common is a very recognisable "skin". We instantly know the meanings underlying each.

What is the meaning underlying chairwoman, wimmin and herstory? (I understand the etymology of "history" is not gender specific, I think the word is making a clear statement, however). What meaning makes it so contentious that even educated women avoid using it? How far is "too far", and why?




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