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Posted by Petra on November 20, 1999 at 12:55:44:

In Reply to: Re: Yummie! And last year's thread... and the word posted by Dana S. on November 20, 1999 at 11:13:35:

: :
: : : Talking about Thanksgiving: I remember asking some questions about that last year, and we had a pretty interesting thread going on about the origin of Thanksgiving. Here is the link to the archived thread:

: : Hi Petra!

: : Hey! That was an interesting thread! And, your timing is great. In that thread there was some discussion regarding the proper meaning & true origin of the word 'squaw.' As I've said before, it is an Algonquian word & has no derogatory meaning. I had been curious as to what position Algonquian speakers would take on the 'controversy.' Well ... here's an excerpt from an editorial from the Lewiston Sun Journal. It is written by Marge Bruchac, an Abenaki woman.

: : It's VERY interesting ...
: : Food for thought?

: : ******
: : (Written in regards to an upcoming debate in the Maine
: : State Legislature to remove the word squaw from all place names in the state.)

: : Title:
: : Reclaiming the Word "Squaw" in the Name of the Ancestors
: : Marge Bruchac

: Thank you, Elaine! You're right. This IS very interesting.

: Dana S.

Hi Elaine and Dana!

Yes, I find that interesting too. I've heard and read comments about this topic by many different people and each seems to say something different. So, the only thing I conclude from this is that it's controversial. And if I know that certain people wish or don't wish to be called by certain words, that's fine with me. I go by what's okay for those I address. That's why I myself would not use terms like "squaw" or "pappoose", because I know some people take it as an offense and I cannot know how one person feels about this compared to another, so I just avoid it. It's not like I need those words in my vocabulary.

As for the offense being in the use of a word, there are of course many examples for that. And a long history of offensive use can sometimes taint a word so much that it is no good any more for innocent use. And yet another topic are words that are known to cause misunderstandings. One example comes to mind in my first language, German: The original German word for "black person" is "Neger". It is of non-offensive origin and goes back to the latin word "negro", simply meaning "black". Now, over the last couple of decades, the German language has been more and more influenced by the English language, and of course there is much contact with English speaking people. The word "Neger" sounds so close in pronounciation to the American "N-word" that it is today not used any more by the younger generation, those who have learned the English language and know about this. But you can still occasionally hear older or less educated people use this word, and I mean use it innocently, and it sometimes leads to very unfortunate misunderstandings. I have had a co-worker years ago who insisted on using this word because of its innocent origin, also with the argument that there should be education instead of changing language due to people not knowing a word's true history. While I could see his point, I thought that was just a little too stubborn. There are more modern words to replace the old term, and why insist on terminology if I know that the chance of offending someone is high. So, that's just the way I look at it. But yes, I can see that others may disagree and may want to make a point out of a certain words' usage.


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