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Re: CHAT: Race, ethnicity, and hyphenization (was Re: PC terminology)

From:Tom Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Sunday, December 27, 1998, 14:37
list James E. Hopkins wrote:

> The feeling of aversion to "labeling" is interesting considering that (=
in my
> admittedly non-expert) opinion that is exactly what all language is: La=
> for the purpose of making distinction. > > I only use the word "derevush" (Druni for "tree") only to distinguish i=
t from
> "soboneri" (Druni for "computer"). If there were no need for distinguis=
> the two there would be no need for labeling and hence no need for langu=
age. But language is not just labeling, IMO. Labeling is merely the applicati= on of a string of phonemes to an object, which does not necessarily mean that t= hat string will be different at all. It could be the same string of phonemes= as, say, labeling a set of certain similar things "apples". Labeling is not merel= y used to differentiate, but also to show similarities; we just happen to notice d= ifferences if they are differently labeled. But my fear is more a sociological one: all too often in the history of = mankind, and especially this soon passing century, people valued those labels more= than the individuals behind it. This took on lots of forms, ranging from the = oppressive dictatorial communalism of fascist regimes of immense scale and organizat= ion to bloody clan-feuds as recently happened in Central Africa, and in general = the process of labeling, when allowed to grow unfettered, developed in massiv= e movements of hate in this world. This is not to say that I hate labeling= itself; it has its uses for pedagogical purposes, but I think that all too often = it's just one false-dichotomy after another, at base (e.g., that of race). I don't= mind calling myself a "Scottish" American, and I celebrate the culture in which my an= cestors took part hundreds of years ago across the sea, but I feel that if I were to a= llow myself to develop some sort of excessive nationalism for it, I would have in tur= n slapped that culture in the face by giving it a bad name as the extremist that I = would then have become. So, I guess the really important point is that we can let th= ese labels get the better of us by allowing them to take on more significance= than they really have.
> As language-lovers we should explore that a little more.
This is certainly true. Language, perhaps more than any other sociallydi= stinguishing feature, is the easiest recognized and the first seized upon as just such a label. In America recently there has been a fairly strong mo= vement to make English the official language, which would effectively end 400 ye= ars of pluralist policy on the part of lawmakers, and indeed would also be an affront to the powers of the States to conduct affairs as they so desire. The problem with this movement, as I see it, is that it makes the English language into something it has never been: it makes it a social requirem= ent before you can be fully American, almost as if you were required to buy certain products or eat certain foods just to show your allegiance to the country. America is an Ideology, not a Cult, not something that we do just for the sake of the mindless worship of tradition. (Certainly, anybody who comes to America expecting it to be easy to get along without English is just as much unenlightened -- but that's a matter of practicality, not ideology) =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D Tom Wier <twier@...> ICQ#: 4315704 AIM: Deuterotom Website: <> "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." "S=F4=F0 is gecy=FEed / =FE=E6t mihtig God manna cynes / w=EAold w=EEde-ferh=F0." _Beowulf_, ll. 700-702 =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D