LINGUIST List 3.871

Sat 07 Nov 1992

Disc: Objectionable Words

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , objectionable words
  2. "Don W.", Democrat(ic)
  3. , 3.866 Objectionable Words
  4. Peter Salus, Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words
  5. "Ellen F. Prince", Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words
  6. "Jane H. Hill", Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words
  7. Margaret M. Fleck, Objectionable Words

Message 1: objectionable words

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 92 15:17 EST
From: <KROVETZcs.umass.EDU>
Subject: objectionable words

What about the case of `colored people' (offensive) vs. `people of
color' (acceptable) ? Are there other examples where a different
word order changes the acceptability of the phrase?

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Message 2: Democrat(ic)

Date: Fri, 06 Nov 1992 17:53:59 Democrat(ic)
From: "Don W." <webbdCCVAX.CCS.CSUS.EDU>
Subject: Democrat(ic)

A historical note on the following. The issue may well be
addressed to the History list; someone there may have an

>Subject: objectionable words
>At least two people have cited the use by Republicans of "Democrat"
>rather than "Democratic" as an adjective (in expressions like
>"Democrat proposal," "Democrat congressman," etc.) supposedly in order
>to demean the opposition.
>I have always assumed that this usage was motivated by a desire to
>avoid the unwanted connotations of lower-case "democratic" in a
>context where the political party is being referred to. In the spoken
>language "Democrat congressman" is unambiguous; "Democratic
>congressman" is not.
>This more charitable interpretation would however not be available for
>"Democrat party" if that is indeed in use; I don't recall having seen
>or heard it myself.
>-Ken <>

The term "Democrat party" has been in use since it was first
introduced, I believe, by Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, in the
1950's. One would have to ask someone other than a Democrat
whether this deformation is still being used in the spirit
in which it was originally intended.

Don W. (DonWebbCSUS.EDU)
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Message 3: 3.866 Objectionable Words

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1992 18:29:38 C3.866 Objectionable Words
From: <>
Subject: 3.866 Objectionable Words

thanx!! personally i find it perjorative, although i agree most don't....i
like either hebrew or 'red sea pedestrian' :)
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Message 4: Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 92 11:00:03 ESTRe: 3.866 Objectionable Words
From: Peter Salus <>
Subject: Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words

Last week I visited my octogenarian aunt in her
geriatric condo. Born in Austria, she plays
bridge every Sunday with a group of elderly
German speaking emigre(e)s. One woman began
a sentence with "Aber wir Juden..." This is,
I admit, not conclusive, but it's good evidence.
[The context was the fact that my aunt stated that
she had filed an absentee ballot for Bush, but
that the recent Contragate revelations had made
her uneasy. "Wir Juden," it was asserted, were
for Clinton.]

Peter H. Salus
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Message 5: Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words

Date: Fri, 06 Nov 92 12:29:02 ESRe: 3.866 Objectionable Words
From: "Ellen F. Prince" <>
Subject: Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words

>Subject: objectionable words
>The different connotations of "Jew" vs. "jewish" are not restricted to
>English. In German, especially speakers of the older generation prefer
>"juedische Menschen" to "Juden" in some contexts. For me (b. 1963, gentile)
>this sounds strange, because I grew up in an environment that totally lacked
>jews or antisemitism, but when my mother (b. 1929) uses the word "Jude",
>she probably still has the association both of "normal" antisemitism in
>Poland of the 1930s (where she grew up) and of Nazi state terrorism against
>the Jews.

it's far more understandable to me that german _jude_ has negative connotations
for that generation, since this was the life-threatening word that was stamped
on Jewish passports and other official documents (and on some of the yellow
stars on Jews' chests) during the 3rd reich. people would pay their life
savings to get a forged passport that lacked those four little letters. same of
course for french _juif_ under the occupation, tho obviously on a smaller
(briefer) scale. in a similar tho nonlinguistic vein, my aunt's kibbutz in
israel would never use numbers to identify kibbutz members (e.g. equivalent of
social security numbers), simply because of the bad taste many members have of
being identified by the number still tattooed on their arm--it's not an
'anti-numerical' stance--they have nothing against numbers and no problem with
arithmetic--just a traumatic association. i wonder if this is changing...

free association wrt _juif_: one of the chants in the streets of paris during
the may 1968 'evenements' was 'nous sommes tous des juifs allemands,' in
solidarity with daniel cohn-bendit, the young franco-german jew who was
crucially involved in starting the whole thing, and with oppressed underdogs in
general. i think there was also a certain shock value intended by the choice of

martin: mon dieu, you were 5 years old... how time flies.
>From: "Lynn S. Messing" <CEM11150UDELVM.BITNET>
>Subject: Re: 3.855 Objectionable Words
> I have been reading with interest the discussion concerning "Jew" vs.
>"Jewish". Where does "Hebrew," as a synonym for "Jew" fit into the picture?

it's not surprising that a person in their 80s would choose _hebrew_ as the
euphemism. consider _ym/ywha_ = young men's/young women's hebrew association,
the adaptation of ymca, and _hias_ = hebrew immigrant aid society, to name two
that have stuck to this day (sort of like the _naacp_). i would suspect that
the person you heard is gentile only because one would think jews would have
noticed that _hebrew_ had fallen out of style since then, but it clearly was
the term favored by jews in the public domain in the 1920s.
>From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
>Subject: Re: 3.855 Objectionable Words
>Lloyd's 2) should be "I am a Chinaman", which is offensive. Also, at
>least in California, "Oriental" is offensive, "Asian" is not.

not only in california, benji. penn has just ended a long and bitter battle
over the name of the (erstwhile) oriental studies dept. much against their
will they have finally changed it to the asian and middle eastern studies
dept. (the dept covers everything from semitic to japanese, except the
modern lgs of the indian subcontinent, which broke away years ago and formed
the south asia dept.) (irrelevant trivia: it's the dept where zellig harris
got his ba and phd and where noam chomsky got his ba.)
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Message 6: Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words

Date: 6 Nov 92 11:29:11 GMT-7
From: "Jane H. Hill" <>
Subject: Re: 3.866 Objectionable Words

Benji Wald raised the question of Hispanic/Latino/Chicano. My own
preliminary and very informal observations suggest that "Latino" is
coming mainly from Caribbean-origin folks in the East and Midwest,
that is Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, etc. In Arizona some
"Chicanos" consider "Latino" to be a word for "some kind of stuck-up
Cuban" (to quote a personal communication). Those who identify with
the movement for "La Raza" may prefer Chicano. However more
conservative people prefer Hispanic as "dignified" and emphasizing
the Spanish heritage ("Hispano" is used often in New Mexico, although
"Mexicano" is used there as well and I haven't sorted out the social
significance of these usages. People who prefer "Latino" (and some
of the kinds of people indicated above are pushing it as a universal
designation) or "Chicano" (these people are NOT pushing it as
universal -- only for Mexican-Americans) will say that "Hispanic" is
a racist term emanating from the U.S. Census and its focus on "races"
of people in contrast with "Blacks", "Whites," etc. -- that
"Hispanic" neglects the diversity of the referred-to population, the
Native American and African background of some, etc. Among "Anglos"
in the Southwest one still hears often "Mexicans" and this is
definitely considered pejorative by Chicanos/Hispanics. Jane H.
Hill, University of Arizona
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Message 7: Objectionable Words

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1992 10:21:23 -Objectionable Words
From: Margaret M. Fleck <>
Subject: Objectionable Words

> From: benji wald
> I've also known people to avoid the word "Black", and not necessarily
> because they were consciously bigotted. Seems like African American
> is now the noun. ...

Of course, this in turn bugs recent immigrants from Africa, not all of
whom are black. It can get quite bizarre explaining to a (white)
African or African-American why he should check the
"European/European-American" box, while some of his (black) European
friends should check the "African/African-American" box.

I imagine similar problems occur with the term "Hispanic." The last
time I read an official government-type definition, it included (a)
Maya and other indians and (b) the South American Welsh community, but
not (c) immigrants from Spain. I wouldn't be surprized if one of these
three groups found this situation annoying.

Margaret Fleck (
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