Feb 27, 2009

Politically correct

Most that know me personally understand that while I don't employ politically correct terms for the sake of it. In fact I love berating the Irish too much to be called a culturally sensitive person. I have to admit I do hate the fact that 'retarded' has became a not-so-nice word. I'm rather fond of it.

Since no one has been able to answer this for me in person I'll post this to the blogsphere. When exactly did it become offensive to use the term 'oriental'? I was overhearing a conversation between two people who kept using the work Asian to describe people they knew. As one would assume most of the time one calls a person Asian it means they're very progressive and probably recycle their own feces, but it got me to thinking. Asia covers quite a bunch of races, creeds, countries, etc. If someone who's just getting familiar with the English language and hears that term I would imagine they'd be confused.

My parents still use the word oriental. I reminded them once that it was not so polite to speak such politically incorrect words. When asked why I don't use Asian to refer to Russians, Indians, Pakistanis, etc I was at a loss. I really couldn't answer that better than anyone else who always gave me the shrug of the shoulders and just followed the leader or whatever language best suits the times.

Of course anyone up to date with progressive linguistics will understand that it's all polite and such to use words that the person being described would feel comfortable with. Most Native Americans don't like being called Indians, cause they're not, and it's never good to call an African American the 'n' word. I don't mind using the term Asian. Really I'll use whatever someone likes, unless I hate them (damn Irish), but I'm kind of curious what is wrong with describing the area or it's inhabitants part of the Orient? Has 'oriental' been used in a derogatory manner that I'm not aware of? Is it a double entrede? Was it's original meaning used to belittle? Is it just a simple progression of language and I'm reading to much into it?

"The one thing that you simply have to remember all the time that you are there, is that Hollywood is an oriental city. As long as you do that you might survive. If you try to equate it with anything else you'll perish." - Olivia De Havilland

11 comments:

wigsf said...

Last year, a Toronto city councillor was forced to apologize by the mayor (effing hippy mofo) for using the term 'oriental' while speaking highly of Toronto's Chinese community. This was the first time me and most Torontonians learned that oriental was an offensive term. Apparently it was wrong for the councillor to say that he admired Toronto's oriental community. He should have said East Asian, or Chinese, or who-the-eff-knows.

I truly believe there is a group of PC thugs sitting in commune somewhere, high out of their effing minds on some organically grown hashish, thinking up ways to screw with people by making up new terms for existing groups of people and causing the existing terms to be offensive.

I'm of Italian ancestry. Call me whatever the hell you'd like. I'm a wop, a greaseball, a guido. Whoopidy-friggin'-doo! I don't care. Stick and stones, yadda yadda yadda.

Mattbear said...

"Oriental" isn't any more specific than "Asian", so that argument for not saying "Asian" is kind of moot.

The way I have heard it explained is that somewhere along the way, "Oriental" came to mean an object or thing from the Asian regions, so "Asian" is used to differentiate between a person and a thing.

I have no idea why that is though, but I would say it probably became improper to call people "oriental" sometime in the late 80s.

I suspect that really part of the problem is that "oriental" was a term made up a long time ago by white people to mean "over there; not us". So it's kind of like calling Native Americans "Indians" - you're using an outdated label that isn't true to the person.

Mattbear said...

@wigsf:

>"(effing hippy mofo)"

That's "hippie", you dirty dago.

wigsf said...

@ mattbear,

Canadian spelling...

Ah, who cares about speling on teh internet

Kelli said...

Do you want an Anthropological perspective?

In my experience being PC is more annoying to those who are on the receiving end. There are many groups of Indians that don't like the term "Native American" because the word "native" equates to being "uncivilized".

From what I gathered while living in Asia ... people want to be addressed by there country, not clumped into a whole. The Koreans hate the Japanese, the Japanese call Filipinos "cockroaches", etc. So to call them "Asian" or "Oriental" is akin to smacking them in the face.

How can you hate the Irish? They gave you Guinness! Besides, I'm part Irish, and I don't think you discriminate against boobies.

Mattbear said...

@Kelli:

>"I don't think you discriminate against boobies."

You can love the boobies and still hate who they're attached too. I've met many a conservative Republican wtih a nice rack.

Just sayin.

Kelli said...

@Mattbear

Touche!

JLee said...

That's a new one on me, although I just don't say "oriental" because it seems old fashioned. It has become ridiculous though trying to keep up with what is and isn't offensive these days. My daughter complained that after a lot of fun ribbing between classmates like "you're head's so big...etc" (no one was upset by it) the principal said they had to quit joking like that, that it wasn't "correct" or whatever. She was bummed.

Pablo G said...

Kelli is absolutely correct.

grace said...

I use the term "Asian" myself, but that's mostly because I generally group people by continent. I'm not geographically knowledgable enough to get all country specific.

Only exceptions there are with countries like Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, etc... where their cultures are just in a whole category of their own.

Miss Ash said...

My favorite is when people automatically refer to someone as "Chinese" regardless of where the person is actually from. That really gets under my skin....

I often feel like the fun police and try to be as PC as possible. As time goes on certain words are no longer acceptable. I mean back in the day people used to sing that "eenie meenie miny moe catch...." song, you know the one....shocking, just shocking to me! How was that okay???