I agree with you completely that marginalized communities are indeed the gatekeepers of
the language used to describe themselves. But that right ends at the limits of words that
do not involve their community. Should a term like gypsy originate, evolve, and operate in
a linguistic universe wholly separate from anything to do with Romani people (as the Welsh
hypothetical suggests), then it is a legitimate usage. Its connection becomes unfairly
imposed, not inherent to the word. Negro is not analogous because it means nothing in
English other than its usage to describe a race of people, and at a time when that
community was treated horribly. As I alluded to in a previous email, it would be
unreasonable to say we should avoid using the phrase "chink in the armor" simply
because an identically spelled, identically sounding word has been used pejoratively. Your
reasoning suggests I should stop using that word too. If not, explain how it's
different. If you think I should stop using that word simply because of incidental
similarity, then I believe we are at an impasse.
On Jan 22, 2016, at 12:01, Ron Blechner
You and I don't get to decide what millions of people think a word means. it's
the nature of language. Logic often has no bearing on it.
In the same way "negro" is derived from Latin for "black", and aptly
may describe a color, it's still inappropriate and offensive in most human contexts
When a word stereotypes a group of people, the only ones who get to decide the proper use
of that word is... that group of people.
As for contra communities, until there's more groundswell of support for changing
"gypsy", it's an uphill battle. I think perhaps the smart thing for those of
us concerned with not using the word is to educate. At the same time, I fully respect
callers choosing to use their own replacements.
> On Jan 22, 2016 11:50 AM, <sargondj(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> I disagree. If it is fair to condemn a word despite widespread ignorance of its
racist etymology (such as the very real problem with the verb "gyp"), then the
inverse must be true: it is fair to exonerate a word despite widespread ignorance of its
non-racist etymology (e.g., niggardly). That a word falsely gets attributed to a category
in which it doesn't belong is irrelevant. If two separate meanings/derivations
converge to an identically spelled modern word, I don't believe the innocent word
(when used in its original context) deserves to be written off. Let us truly abide by what
you claim to support: its current use *is* relevant.
>> On Jan 21, 2016, at 13:25, Ron Blechner via Callers
>> Regardless of whether it was derived from Welsh hundreds of years ago, would you
say more than 0.1% of dancers know that? Or, do you think 99.9%+ of dancers associate
"gypsy" the dance move with the slang for wandering people?
>> Regardless of its origin, its current use is relevant.
>>> On Jan 21, 2016 12:15 PM, "Martha Wild via Callers"
>>> As mentioned, there are many words we use that are even considered impolite
but only depending on context. The nickname for Richard, for example. Lots of men proudly
use that as their name, but it’s also a really offensive term. The name Randy has other
contexts, yet we use it without any problem in the context of someone with that as their
name. (Note the use of the plural for the generic singular pronoun, which I’ve done for
years, unhappy with he/him for that term and that just sort of started happening). If our
word actually came down from Welsh, and has no relationship to the Romani whatsoever, then
it would seem even more reason to recognize that it is context dependent and completely
divorced from the pejorative use of the unfortunately similar word in other countries.
>>>> On Jan 21, 2016, at 5:56 AM, Janet Bertog via Callers
>>>> I have contacted Carol and have begun a discussion. I still have several
unanswered questions but one thing I did learn is that the Romani have claimed the word
and deemed it offensive and feel it should not be used, in any context, in any language.
More about why she herself uses the word later. One thing I asked her was about her
insistence on the use of a capital G. To me, this would indicate that Gypsy would refer
to the ethnicity, while gypsy would have a possibly completely different meaning.
>>>> We know that gipsy/gip was being used in country dances at least in 1909
when Cecil Sharp wrote them down. Two of the three dances in the 1909 book originated in
the 1500s, one ECD and one Morris Dance from Scotland. We do not know if they originally
used the terms gip/gipsy in the 1500s, but we do know that gip, at least, has another
meaning in Welsh (a celtic language) - gaze or glance.
>>>> So, my conversation with Carol is ongoing, and unresolved. But if you
feel that a group can claim a word and then claim that it is a slur, there are a lot of
other words you should stop using as well.
>>>>> On Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 3:00 AM, Erik Hoffman via Callers
>>>>> What's in a word? As this list points out, it gets confusing.
>>>>> Like Martha, I stopped using "Ladies," and
"Gents," or "Gentlemen," because they are words steeped in class-ism.
And after years of being told we live in a classless society, the lie of that became
>>>>> But, more recently I was approached by a man who felt
"Ladies," and "Gents" were roles anyone could play whereas
"Men" and "Women" really did refer to what was between our legs, and
made it more uncomfortable to switch roles. Also, even though we live in a severely class
society, the words "Ladies" and "Gents" don't seem to carry that
weight any more.
>>>>> Then again, in Berkeley we've switched to "gender
free," and use "Ravens" and "Larks" now.
>>>>> This is all to say, those who come to the dance have many differing
associations with words. And sometimes it is important that we listen.
>>>>> Take "He" and "She." We all know that
"He" has been the generic pronoun where "She" refers only to women.
Since we live in a society dominated by the patriarchal Christian religion, it's clear
that using "He" and "Him" generically supports this concept. Many of
us, in the sixties and seventies counteracted this male dominance by using "She"
and "Her" as the generic pronoun. It was startling how different it feels to
switch to those. There are now corners pushing to just use "They" and
"Them" for everyone, like we use "you" for both plural and singular.
Maybe it will take hold...
>>>>> But all this is to say, these little words do have an affect on how
we think about things.
>>>>> So now we are thinking about "gypsy." Or, better with
capitalization, "Gypsy." Is it derogatory? To some, not all. Is that reason
enough to change? Perhaps for some. I've started using "Right Shoulder
Turn," and "Left Shoulder Turn." It doesn't slide off the tongue, an
isn't as colorful, but it is more descriptive. At Contra Carnivale, Susan Michaels
said someone had come up with "Roma-around," or "Romaround.."
>>>>> So we're all dealing with it, and considering this as:
>>>>> Some of us are attached to our words, and don't want to loose it.
Some of us are vociferous about keeping it. And some of us are searching for a substitute
that might work better. Seems about right.
>>>>> Mostly, I want to suggest, as we struggle with this, consider how our
language and word choice does affect others, whether we mean it to or not. As callers, we
are in the public eye--granted a small pond of the public--but our words do go out there
and cause others to think, too.
>>>>> What's in a word? A lot.
>>>>> ~erik hoffman
>>>>> oakland, ca
>>>>> Callers mailing list
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