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Awkwardfulness is. Long is not
November 30, 2004 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Pentasyllabic is. Edible is not. Some words refer to themselves, some do not - an introduction to the paradox of language and a way to amaze your easily-amazed friends. In a similar vein, you may already test yourself by using e-prime, but do you know the thirty-two eskimo words for snow?
posted by blahblahblah (98 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
[This is good.]
posted by BradNelson at 8:18 PM on November 30, 2004


"This gubblick contains many nonsklarkish English flutzpahs, but the overall pluggandisp can be glorked from context."

best. link. evar.
posted by quonsar at 8:21 PM on November 30, 2004


Don't read this.
posted by grimcity at 8:25 PM on November 30, 2004


My favorite: "If you think this sentence is confusing, then change one pig." Blows your mind, doesn't it?

best. link. evar.

ditto.
posted by BradNelson at 8:26 PM on November 30, 2004


bravo! (e-prime fan here)
posted by moonbird at 8:28 PM on November 30, 2004


Fantastic.

Subjectively autological, but it certainly applies to this post.
posted by PhatLobley at 8:31 PM on November 30, 2004


Why do I all the sudden feel like reading ee cummings?

Good post!
posted by protocool at 8:32 PM on November 30, 2004


Like moonbird, you had me at "e-prime."
posted by jbrjake at 8:33 PM on November 30, 2004


I have tried e-prime, for a few sentences at a stretch. I can think of no more an infuriating thing. In fact, I have used all my wits to compose this tiny post in e-prime. Gah. Those who espouse this idiosyncratic form of speech should consider themselves censured most scathingly.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:36 PM on November 30, 2004


What a great essay. My head hurts, and yet I smile. I liked the bit with the robot. Also, e-prime makes for awkward expressions, would you not agree?
posted by jenovus at 8:44 PM on November 30, 2004


"Edible" could be autologous, under the right conditions. Carve it into a bar of chocolate...
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:54 PM on November 30, 2004


My thoughts still linger on the question "Is 'heterological' a heterological word?"*. Can anyone answer that for me?

*Ignore quoted text for e-prime compliance.
posted by FissionChips at 9:03 PM on November 30, 2004


[this deserves a description such as 'good']
posted by pokeydonut at 9:06 PM on November 30, 2004


You have of course, just begun the sentence that you have just finished reading.

Snap!

I enjoyed perusing these fascinating links verily. E-Prime, no?
posted by Colloquial Collision at 9:06 PM on November 30, 2004


Good stuff. I'm especially glad to see "autological" as I've been running around for a while now giving that concept a home-grown label.

Also, this story comes to mind.
posted by catachresoid at 9:08 PM on November 30, 2004


I'm not quite sure what to make of the eskimo words for snow thing. I thought this was a myth that has been long debunked, and 32 doesn't strike me as all that many. I find the number of words for snow in English almost more remarkable (slightly edited):

avalanche
blizzard
snow
dusting
flurry
frost
hail
hardpack
ice lens
igloo (Inuit iglu 'house')
pingo (Inuit pingu(q) 'ice lens')
powder
sleet
slush
(snow)flake
(snow)storm

I count 16 independent lexemes, although "pingo" looks a bit fishy to me. Considering that eskimos have a much greater need to distinguish between different types of snow, 32 lexemes is not really that impressive. Especially when you consider that the Germans have 75 words for bread and more than 400 words for beer.
posted by sour cream at 9:25 PM on November 30, 2004


My brain, she cries.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 9:36 PM on November 30, 2004


I have never written this before, so be honoured: [this is good]
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:52 PM on November 30, 2004


speechless, i really can't write this post in response
posted by pomo porno at 9:54 PM on November 30, 2004


Especially when you consider that the Germans have 75 words for bread and more than 400 words for beer.

Assuming you consider 'Becks', 'Schneider', and 'Erdinger' to be words for beer...
posted by heavy water at 10:00 PM on November 30, 2004


Couldn't find anything on Snopes about Eskimo words for snow, but from:

http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_297.html

and http://www.straightdope.com/columns/010202.html

Eskimo languages do indeed have a lot of words for snow.

So does English.

bunk
posted by MiG at 10:04 PM on November 30, 2004


[this sentence no verb]
posted by wanderingmind at 10:06 PM on November 30, 2004


This is not a comment.

On preview: .
posted by ludwig_van at 10:07 PM on November 30, 2004


Also, Eskimo is not the preferred nomenclature, Dude.

from Wikipedia: "Many Inuit consider the name "Eskimo" to be derogatory."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:16 PM on November 30, 2004


We seem to be getting a few Hofstadterian posts lately (the excellent one on Bongard diagrams springs to mind).
This is a Good Thing.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:20 PM on November 30, 2004


The last word in this sentence is mispelled.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:25 PM on November 30, 2004


Reading the e-prime link took me back to the 8th grade, when my English teacher didn't allow us to use is, are, were, am, be or been in any of our essays. I cursed her for it then and vowed my revenge: "I'll show her! I'll become a famous writer and use 'is' all the Goddamn time!" But whaddya know, she was right: learning to write without those words really stretched out the ol' brain.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:27 PM on November 30, 2004


Eskimo is not the preferred nomenclature, Dude.

Look, we're not talking about the guys who built the railroads. We're talking about people who probably have five verbs meaning "to pee in the snow."
posted by sour cream at 10:28 PM on November 30, 2004


I submit monotonous.

The definitions of autological and heterological seem mutually exclusive. This means the heterological list simply consists of all words that are not autological.
This seems illogical to me. There should be another category of illogical, unlogical, or antilogical words, like abbreviation, which imply their opposite, to make things logical again.

Disclaimer: I always lie.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:34 PM on November 30, 2004


I loved the inclusion of the line from the Gettysburg address in the list of paradoxical sentences. Can historical perspective render an utterance self-contradictory?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:39 PM on November 30, 2004


You mean like spreading freedom?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:42 PM on November 30, 2004


I'd like to echo: [this is good]

Also: Inuit, not Eskimo. Always. Always. Unless you like being called 'honky' all the time, f'r ex.

Moreover, the idea of the Inuit having a lot of words for snow is entirely logical: every culture has a lot of words for describing what's most important to them, and their surroundings. The Arctic is largely ice and snow and bloody cold water. Having a lot of words to offer shades of nuance in regards to those things is only to be expected.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:46 PM on November 30, 2004


mr_roboto: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
posted by jenovus at 10:48 PM on November 30, 2004


Richard Perle accused the German Chancellor of inciting pacifism.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:49 PM on November 30, 2004


My thoughts still linger on the question "Is 'heterological' a heterological word?"*. Can anyone answer that for me?

Yeah, sure, here's the answer: everything you know is wrong. Unless you're ready to go off into the woods to begin a quest for enlightenment, you're better off just recognizing it as an amusing paradox.

Seriously though, wonderful post. I finished reading "Godel, Escher, Bach" last month and I have yet to fully recover...
posted by Laugh_track at 10:49 PM on November 30, 2004


Eskimo still seems OK in the US but has been unacceptable in the north for at least 30 years. It is purportedly a Cree creation meaning "eaters of raw meat” and meant as an insult about equivalent to dago, spic or wop. No e-prime sorry.
posted by arse_hat at 10:53 PM on November 30, 2004


Look, we're not talking about the guys who built the railroads. We're talking about people who probably have five verbs meaning "to pee in the snow."

Gah!! What the hell is that even supposed to mean? I'm actually astounded that it took like 20 comments before someone finally managed to use the word Inuit. I think Eskimo has been widely accepted as offensive for like.. what 15 - 20 years? Jesus.

I mean, really.
posted by paultron at 10:55 PM on November 30, 2004


On preview: Sorry... rather;

Hey guys... can we just stop using that word? it IS offensive, whether you knew it or not. Ok? So from here on in....

Also: honestly, what did that comment mean?
"It's not racism if we're not talking about the blacks or the chinese.. these are ESKIMOS! They don't get offended..."
posted by paultron at 10:57 PM on November 30, 2004


word.
posted by brevator at 10:58 PM on November 30, 2004


[this merits praise]
posted by bingbangbong at 10:59 PM on November 30, 2004


...offensive for like.. what 15 - 20 years? Jesus.

...only when used in vain.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:03 PM on November 30, 2004


haha. ok.

what I meant was "15 or 20 years... Criminey!"
posted by paultron at 11:06 PM on November 30, 2004


[this > bad]

Laugh_track: I finished reading "Godel, Escher, Bach" last month and I have yet to fully recover...

Uh-oh, there's RECOVERY time, too? Dang. It's taking me long enough to get through the book itself, I didn't realize you also had to take time to come down from it.
posted by Fontbone at 11:15 PM on November 30, 2004


I've always liked the Liar Paradox..

"The following statement is true."
"The previous statement is a lie."

Just beautiful.
posted by Firas at 11:16 PM on November 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


eskimo-fo

sorry
posted by svenvog at 11:21 PM on November 30, 2004


I, likewise, bestow much praise upon this post.
posted by pmbuko at 11:22 PM on November 30, 2004


Here's Einstein's Theory of Relativity in words of four letters or less. No recovery time. Just posted this link on the relativity thread, but word buffs will ROTFL. Likely many have seen it before.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:28 PM on November 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


is mimsy were the boragroves is mimsy were the boragroves -Indeed Quine Style is Quine Style indeed
posted by svenvog at 11:40 PM on November 30, 2004


Also: honestly, what did that comment mean?
"It's not racism if we're not talking about the blacks or the chinese.. these are ESKIMOS! They don't get offended..."


What the hell are you talking about? The eskimos are not the issue here, man. We are talking about drawing a line in the snow, dude. Across this line, you DO NOT...


err, probably not really funny unless you've seen the movie.

And yes, eskimos is not the preferred nomenclature. Point taken. (Unless you talk to the Yupik people, which actually prefer Eskimo to Inuit, as this page informs me.) Also, it's probably just a matter of time before "Inuit" will be regarded as derogatory as well.
posted by sour cream at 11:41 PM on November 30, 2004


Supervocalic -- coined by Eric Chaikin and mentioned in Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis -- refers to a word or phrase that contains each vowel one time.

Part of the problem, Eric reasons, is that he's always been infatuated with wordplay rather than competition. He deomonstrates that devotion one night at a tournament, when he explains to other math-brained word lovers his concept of "supervocalics," a word he coined to describe words or phrases containing the letters A, E, I, O, and U once each (Julia Roberts is a supervocalic actress; Mozambique and Belorussia are the only two supervocalic countries; Hair Club for Men is a supervocalic . . . Hair club).Fastis, Stefan. Word Freak - Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. p. 352

Susan Thorpe chronicled her lifelong search for supervocalics in Word Ways magizine in August, 1999, but did not call them by that term. (Her article includes a long list of these words.)

"Unsociable housemaid discourages facetious behaviour" is a phrase made up entirely of uncapitalized supervocalics, each with a different permutation of vowels. permutation?
posted by palegirl at 12:02 AM on December 1, 2004


I find it weird how autological the news is. When you watch the State of the Union, one ear is cocked on the instantaneous feedback, or how America will react to how the commentators are saying America will respond to what the commentators say about the speech. What about cars and packaging that endlessly autologically trumpet themselves? - I am a car from this dealership where you can buy me.

Does all this stuff work in other languages, too?
posted by faux ami at 12:09 AM on December 1, 2004


Sorry to any Inuit or Yupik that I offended. From a perspective of language, however, Eskimo seemed the term used to describe the set of all Greenlandic-Inuit-Yupik languages, and therefore correct in the phrasing I used. Just as a Jewish person still speaks Hebrew, but is no longer called a Hebrew.

Anyhow, I apologize if there was anyone I offended, be they Yupik or Inuit - and I am glad you guys are enjoying the links.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:14 AM on December 1, 2004


un peu
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:15 AM on December 1, 2004


[Holy cool]
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:22 AM on December 1, 2004


It seems to me we have a sliding scale of auto-to-heterologicality. We see, at one extreme, inherently & necessarily autological words like polysyllabic, but then we may also take note of potentially or conditionally autological words such as the names of the colours, big if written in fifty-foot-high letters, edible if spelled out in Alphabetti Spaghetti... At the opposite extreme, one may consider inherently heterological words such as monosylllabic, or unsayable which in some sense oppose or deny the properties they denote.
posted by misteraitch at 1:23 AM on December 1, 2004


I enjoyed this. I don't know why so many people have trouble with e-prime. It doesn't change a thing in most sentences, and I think that I express ideas more clearly with it, really... or maybe things just seem more active with e-prime. Everything does something, instead of merely existing in one state or another.
posted by blacklite at 1:26 AM on December 1, 2004


This made my day...which might be kinda sad, I'm not sure.
posted by nightchrome at 2:25 AM on December 1, 2004


electro-eskimo - eskimo combined with raver, with a dose of punk and goth. Think fishnets, parka, and fur.

Would elector-eskimo as a fashion statement be offensive to Inuits?
posted by Colloquial Collision at 2:46 AM on December 1, 2004


I'm not quite sure what to make of the eskimo words for snow thing. I thought this was a myth that has been long debunked

I cringed when I saw the link, thinking it would be to yet another version of the myth, but in fact it was a good statement of the facts: to quote Cecil Adams (via MiG),
Eskimo languages do indeed have a lot of words for snow.
So does English.


As for the Eskimo/Inuit thing, arse_hat has it right:
Eskimo still seems OK in the US but has been unacceptable in the north for at least 30 years.

Oh, and great post!

Meaning, there's no point hollering and pointing the finger at Americans (or USAnians if you prefer) who use "Eskimo"; eventually the name change will probably trickle down, but in the meantime it does no good to accuse people of being insensitive racist jerks (not quoting anyone, but this is the implication) for using the only word they know. Suppose you were to refer to the Galla people of East Africa and I snapped "It's Oromo, you asshole! How'd you like being called '[insert appropriate ethnic slur]'?" Just give people the info and hold the contempt.
posted by languagehat at 2:49 AM on December 1, 2004


Er, "Oh, and great post!" was supposed to come at the end. Stupid preview box.
posted by languagehat at 2:49 AM on December 1, 2004


[I would like to contribute to the self-referentiality of this thread]
posted by neckro23 at 4:35 AM on December 1, 2004


Eskimo still seems OK in the US but has been unacceptable in the north for at least 30 years.

That's like saying in 1950 it was perfectly acceptable calling black men niggers in the South.

It wasn't, and Eskimo is not acceptable now.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:45 AM on December 1, 2004


I detest e-prime. More than a few times, e-prime was required in my college essays. I plan to snuggle with "be verbs" till the end of my days.
posted by jennanemone at 6:22 AM on December 1, 2004


did you know that Westerners have over 30 words for money?
posted by 31d1 at 7:11 AM on December 1, 2004


I love e-prime. Our medieval lit professor would dock us two or three points (out of a possible 100) for each use of "to be." After a large amount of trial and error, we managed to wean ourselves of it. I still find myself pulling all the "to be"s from my writing.

Of course, now that I'm thinking of it again, I find myself struggling to avoid it. Once you stop thinking about it and just do it, e-prime becomes much easier.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:14 AM on December 1, 2004


That's like saying in 1950 it was perfectly acceptable calling black men niggers in the South

No it's not, and you're not helping educate people by raising the stakes like that. It's like calling Republicans Nazis.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on December 1, 2004


Before reading this post, I'd never heard of e-prime. I've copied my first effort below:

When I go to the store, I often purchase tomatoes. I rather like eating tomatoes, especially when incorporated into a tasty chopped salad. Scientists, embroiled in debate, have yet to
determine whether a tomato belongs to the family of fruits or to that of vegetables. Nonetheless, I continue to consume tomatoes and tomato based products.

It doesn't seem overly difficult. But then again, I imagine it'd challenge the mind to carry on for more than a few sentences.
posted by aladfar at 7:45 AM on December 1, 2004


Cracking post.

(Apropos of not much, my fave rave word at the moment is haecceity, meaning 'the essence that makes something the kind of thing it is, and makes it different from any other.' I used to use quiddity for this, which was always annoying, since that word also means the same as quibble or trifle, therefore coming up wanting in the haecceity department. Er, yeah... as you were.)
posted by jack_mo at 7:53 AM on December 1, 2004


Languagehat, what part of "Many Inuit consider the name "Eskimo" to be derogatory" don't you understand?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2004


At first I thought "e-prime" meant writing without using the letter "e" (the way that a the name of a set with the prime symbol ' postpended represents the inverse of the unadorned set (unless, of course, I am mistaken in that regard, something not altogether improbable)). I can't remember the proper name for that kind of writing now, but I can say that its difficulty certainly exceeds that of writing in e-prime, at least for relatively short lengths, to the point that anyone who can write a reasonably lengthy text without employing the letter "e" deserves, IMO, to be honored with great honor for the accomplishment.
posted by kenko at 8:16 AM on December 1, 2004


FUCK.

Deserves great honor.
posted by kenko at 8:18 AM on December 1, 2004


That's like saying in 1950 it was perfectly acceptable calling black men niggers in the South

I bitterly resent the implication that Black women are apparently unworthy of mention here. Please use the term "Black People".

heh.
posted by fish tick at 8:53 AM on December 1, 2004


languagehat isn't saying that the Inuit don't consider the term "Eskimo" derogatory, he's saying that many Americans are unaware of the fact and are simply using the word "Eskimo," which they know, rather than the word "Inuit," which they do not. In most cases they intend no offence, having few preconceived notions of and generally zero contact with Inuit people. The point is they're not being racist jerks when they're acting out of ignorance and not out of insensitivity or malice. As Mr. Hat suggested we're more successful at raising people's awareness when we educate them rather than insulting them.
posted by Songdog at 9:12 AM on December 1, 2004


Songdog, I was referring to Language Hat saying this:

"As for the Eskimo/Inuit thing, arse_hat has it right:
Eskimo still seems OK in the US"

If most Inuit find 'Eskimo' derogatory, than Eskimo is not OK in the US.

And I agree both you and languagehat about the raising people's awareness thing. That's why I included a link to the wikipedia definition of 'Eskimo' in my very first comment on this link.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2004


Oops-- THEN, not than.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2004


And I agree WITH you, not 'I agree both you."

Holy smokes, I think I just blew out a frontal lobe.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:10 AM on December 1, 2004


Sorry, Fuzzy Monster. I thought you were referring to languagehat saying this:

"No it's not, and you're not helping educate people by raising the stakes like that. It's like calling Republicans Nazis."
posted by Songdog at 10:28 AM on December 1, 2004



posted by petebest at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2004


How could I survive if I could not complain that "My arm has been cut off and I'm going to die"? On the other hand, [...]

This line is not funny. I was lying just then. This sentence is true, though. There are no absolutes. [I'm not that clever.]
posted by effwerd at 12:24 PM on December 1, 2004


Eskimo still seems OK in the US

What part of "seems" don't you understand? I don't want to get too snarky here, since you're being relatively civil, but I'm not saying the word is fine, don't worry about it, I'm saying (or, here, quoting someone else saying) it seems OK to Americans because they don't know the Inuit don't like it. (Furthermore, it's not the case that all Inuit dislike it, but overgeneralization is inevitable in these matters.) As I said above, it's likely the (currently) preferred term will win out; it's possible that by then yet another term will be considered "correct," and the whole education process will begin all over again. Such are the perils of politicized language.
posted by languagehat at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2004


languagehat; "I don't want to get too snarky here, since you're being relatively civil" Relitively civil? Down right polite. Songdog called me mister.
posted by arse_hat at 12:59 PM on December 1, 2004


E-prime has its limitations.
Which would you rather hear?

1. Mistakes were made. Please accept our apologies.
2. I was wrong. I am sorry.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:54 PM on December 1, 2004


Shouldn't you write it: "1. We made some mistakes. Please accept our apologies"?

E-prime suffers from a name that only its mother could love. Like esperanto, a language whose name suggests that you can buy it in cups labeled "Warning: contents may be hot".
posted by breath at 2:47 PM on December 1, 2004


I haven't yet posted this comment that you have just finished reading.

Accompany each of these sentences with the mental image of two English professors high fiving, tweed coats and all.
posted by breath at 2:56 PM on December 1, 2004


E-prime is the religion of schoolmarms who think they have some insight into linguistics.

As others have pointed out, this rule only succeeds in making writing self-conscious and needlessly clunky. It is reminiscent of the old sophism that the passive voice is undesirable. Good writing in general is more complex than can be summed up in a few simple rules, but these rules don't even *help* writing, they actually mangle it. E-Prime is superstition.
posted by mowglisambo at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2004 [1 favorite]


The wikipedia entry on Eskimo has some interesting things to say.

It seems to me that 'Inuit,' like 'African-American,' is a synechdochic solution that makes it more difficult to communicate clearly. Not all Eskimos are Inuit. And Inuit apparently means 'the people.' Maybe I don't want to refer to Eskimos as 'the people.'
posted by bingo at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2004


Here it is.
posted by bingo at 6:13 PM on December 1, 2004


[this is (so) good] I have to forward it to my pedant pal.
posted by bonaldi at 6:33 PM on December 1, 2004


It is reminiscent of the old sophism that the passive voice is undesirable.

What are you on about? If the passive voice is avoidable, isn't it better avoided?

Compare:

a) The king was killed by him. (passive)
b) He killed the king.

a) This is the book that was read by me. (passive)
b) This is the book that I read.

Not a bad rule of thumb at all, unless you have a reason to use the passive voice. (For example, 'satellite movement is governed by international treaties' could sound better than 'international treaties govern the movement of satellites'.)

As for e-prime itself, I've only encountered it with this post but don't expect care for it much. I think the benefits it provides are more that of eliminating the passive voice than of eliminating the verb 'to be'.
posted by Firas at 7:32 PM on December 1, 2004 [1 favorite]


It is reminiscent of the old sophism that the passive voice is undesirable.

Thank you for sticking up for the beleaguered passive voice. I love the passive voice. It has so very many appropriate uses.

E-prime is an evil mental virus. It will take me some time to forget about it again and stop obsessively noting to myself whenever I use a "to be" verb. Damn damn damn.
posted by beth at 8:02 PM on December 1, 2004


The 'be' verb is meaningless anyway. Think about dialects of English that do away with the 'equating' connector between two equal entities:
"She a doctor."
"This bus slow."
People say these things and they mean the exact same thing as their "standard" English counterparts with "is."

Why blame the words?
posted by ism at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2004


languagehat, my friend: we keep talking but it seems as though neither of us is really hearing what the other is saying.
Maybe Homer Simpson said it best: “The problem is communication. Too much communication.”

p.s.: please accept my apology for my ‘what part of’ comment. That was needlessly snarky, and I’m sorry.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:25 PM on December 1, 2004


I can't remember the proper name for that kind of writing now, but I can say that its difficulty certainly exceeds that of writing in e-prime, at least for relatively short lengths, to the point that anyone who can write a reasonably lengthy text without employing the letter "e" deserves, IMO, to be honored with great honor for the accomplishment.

You mean a lipogram? Such as Gadsby?
posted by Vidiot at 2:07 AM on December 2, 2004


Vidiot beat me to it - I was trying to recall the title of "A Void" (contained in his first link).
posted by goofyfoot at 3:30 PM on December 2, 2004


Hate to further muddy the Eskimo/Inuit waters, but the Alaska Native Language Center seems to prefer "Eskimo" over "Inuit" as a generic term for Alaska's natives, primarily because many of Alaska's natives aren't Inuit.
posted by gompa at 4:00 PM on December 2, 2004


Thanks gompa.

Giving this a little more thought, I think this whole "Eskimo is not the preferred nomenclature" thing is a bit silly.
To wit: Nobody is using "eskimo" in a derogatory manner -- at least I've never heard it that way. "You eskimo you" certainly doesn't seem to carry much punch and would probably result in blank stares.
Secondly, the main criticism seems to be based on a very questionable ethymology. But that's not a good reason to scrap a perfectly good word. If I recall correctly, the word meaning "German" in many Eastern European languages is derived from the word meaning "deaf mute" (something along the line of "Niemcy"), which can be taken to be derogatory. And doesn't "Hungarian" essentially mean "Huns"? Yet nobody seems to be complaining about these.

So, I think it is essentially our decision what we call other peoples in our language and as long as the word "eskimo" is not used in a derogatory manner (which it isn't), it is a perfectly good word.
Seems to me that arguing against the word "eskimo" is a result of an inferiority complex combined with political correctness run amuck.
posted by sour cream at 7:27 PM on December 2, 2004


How about this: we call people what they want to be called. And if we're not sure what that is, we ask.

(tempted to make lame "just don't call me late for dinner!" joke here)
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:21 PM on December 2, 2004


But we don't know what each individual person wants to be called, so we wind up giving in to the loudest complainers. We choose (in that case) to please Inuit who don't want to be called "Eskimo" and don't worry about offending Yupik who don't want to be called "Inuit." Frankly, almost nobody has the time, energy, and prior knowledge to be able to figure out the merits of each case, so it's usually a matter of wanting to be able to proclaim "my political correctness is correcter than thine," with nothing to back it up but "I read on this website that the X prefer the name Y." But hey, whatever makes people happy.
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on December 3, 2004


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