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Old 01-07-2013, 11:31 AM   #1
JennaDeeDooDah
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Words and terms that are not considered PC, but you don't really understand why.

Are there any words or terms out there that are politically incorrect, but you really don't understand why? For me, "Oriental" is one of those terms. People insist that it needs to be "Asian". Okay, I understand that they are from Asia, but so are people from Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, etc. and they are called Middle Eastern. No one gets angry that they aren't referred to as "Asian". The Orient is an area of the far east and the term derives from a Latin word that means east. To me, referring to a person as Oriental is really just being more descriptive of their ancestry, much like referring to someone as a New Englander or a Southerner. However, since "Oriental" is no longer a PC term, I don't use it, but I really don't understand the ideas behind why it is politically incorrect.


Anyone have any idea why this is a politically incorrect term? Anyone have any other politically incorrect terms that you don't use because they are considered politically incorrect, but don't really understand why?


An please don't turn this into a thread attacking people for being "ignorant" or "racist". This is about terms and words that you don't use and you choose to not use them because you know it makes people uncomfortable, but you are unsure of why that is.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:41 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JennaDeeDooDah View Post
Are there any words or terms out there that are politically incorrect, but you really don't understand why? For me, "Oriental" is one of those terms. People insist that it needs to be "Asian". Okay, I understand that they are from Asia, but so are people from Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, etc. and they are called Middle Eastern. No one gets angry that they aren't referred to as "Asian". The Orient is an area of the far east and the term derives from a Latin word that means east. To me, referring to a person as Oriental is really just being more descriptive of their ancestry, much like referring to someone as a New Englander or a Southerner. However, since "Oriental" is no longer a PC term, I don't use it, but I really don't understand the ideas behind why it is politically incorrect.


Anyone have any idea why this is a politically incorrect term? Anyone have any other politically incorrect terms that you don't use because they are considered politically incorrect, but don't really understand why?


An please don't turn this into a thread attacking people for being "ignorant" or "racist". This is about terms and words that you don't use and you choose to not use them because you know it makes people uncomfortable, but you are unsure of why that is.
The answer to your question is found in the words that I bolded.

To call them "oriental" is to call them "easterners", yes, but that part of the world is the east only from a western persepective. To them, they are not in the east. It's like saying that the whole world should be definied by our persective here on this part of the earth. In other words, they are "oriental" to us only, not to themselves. That is why it is considered offensive; because it is defining a people using a perspective that is not their own.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:44 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by topolino View Post
The answer to your question is found in the words that I bolded.

To call them "oriental" is to call them "easterners", yes, but that part of the world is the east only from a western persepective. To them, they are not in the east. It's like saying that the whole world should be definied by our persective here on this part of the earth. In other words, they are "oriental" to us only, not to themselves. That is why it is considered offensive; because it is defining a people using a perspective that is not their own.
Hmmm. That's very interesting and thank you for the response. Another question, then. Why is it, then, that people in the US and Canada can be called westerners? Please know I am not trying to be argumentative here, but am honestly wondering.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:46 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by topolino View Post
The answer to your question is found in the words that I bolded.

To call them "oriental" is to call them "easterners", yes, but that part of the world is the east only from a western persepective. To them, they are not in the east. It's like saying that the whole world should be definied by our persective here on this part of the earth. In other words, they are "oriental" to us only, not to themselves. That is why it is considered offensive; because it is defining a people using a perspective that is not their own.
Well said.

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Old 01-07-2013, 11:48 AM   #5
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Re Turkey: I don't claim to speak for all Turkish people but the ones I know consider themselves to be European or maybe Asian. They don't like being called Middle Eastern. I think it's because the country really wants to join the European Union & they want to distance themselves from the religious crazy in parts of the Middle East.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:49 AM   #6
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And, along why with can we be called westerners, why can people from the Middle East be called as such?
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JennaDeeDooDah View Post
Hmmm. That's very interesting and thank you for the response. Another question, then. Why is it, then, that people in the US and Canada can be called westerners? Please know I am not trying to be argumentative here, but am honestly wondering.
Not just the US and Canada, but Europe, as well.

It's a good question, and I don't really know the answer. I assume it's because it is they themselves that are calling themselves such.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjantz View Post
Re Turkey: I don't claim to speak for all Turkish people but the ones I know consider themselves to be European or maybe Asian. They don't like being called Middle Eastern. I think it's because the country really wants to join the European Union & they want to distance themselves from the religious crazy in parts of the Middle East.
Interesting. Do you know if they consider Middle Eastern to be an insult, or just something that prefer to not be called?
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:52 AM   #9
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I think in general it has to do with how a country or people identify themselves as opposed to labels that have been put upon them. No Asian person I know calls themselves Oriental. Again, no Turkish person I know calls themselves Middle Eastern. So to call my friends Middle Eastern is to assign them a label (with all the baggage that might come with it) without considering their thoughts & feelings.

ETA: I don't think they consider Middle Eastern an insult. It's just that there's so much baggage attached to that area of the country, especially in terms of religion. Given that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country I think they really want to make clear that there is a difference in how Turkey is run as opposed to 'those countries'.

Last edited by mjantz; 01-07-2013 at 11:55 AM. Reason: More info
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:59 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjantz View Post
I think in general it has to do with how a country or people identify themselves as opposed to labels that have been put upon them. No Asian person I know calls themselves Oriental. Again, no Turkish person I know calls themselves Middle Eastern. So to call my friends Middle Eastern is to assign them a label (with all the baggage that might come with it) without considering their thoughts & feelings.

ETA: I don't think they consider Middle Eastern an insult. It's just that there's so much baggage attached to that area of the country, especially in terms of religion. Given that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country I think they really want to make clear that there is a difference in how Turkey is run as opposed to 'those countries'.
You know, this post made me think of the term "Yankee" or "Yank" and I had to smile a little. When I was in The United Kingdom and Australia, there were a couple of times that the locals would refer to my friends and myself as "yanks" or even "yankees". Now, you need to know that my friends and I are all from the south and don't exactly like this term. To us, that term doesn't belong to us, but to certain people living in various New England states. So, we would promptly correct them, but they would argue that it didn't matter what area of the country we were from, we were all "yanks". It was all in good fun, though. Then, a few years later, another friend called a guy from Boston a yankee. I thought he was going to kill her. He told her that he was not a Yankee; he was a Red Sock.

I guess it's all about what you identify with the term.
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Old 01-07-2013, 01:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JennaDeeDooDah View Post
You know, this post made me think of the term "Yankee" or "Yank" and I had to smile a little. When I was in The United Kingdom and Australia, there were a couple of times that the locals would refer to my friends and myself as "yanks" or even "yankees". Now, you need to know that my friends and I are all from the south and don't exactly like this term. To us, that term doesn't belong to us, but to certain people living in various New England states. So, we would promptly correct them, but they would argue that it didn't matter what area of the country we were from, we were all "yanks". It was all in good fun, though. Then, a few years later, another friend called a guy from Boston a yankee. I thought he was going to kill her. He told her that he was not a Yankee; he was a Red Sock.

I guess it's all about what you identify with the term.
That's funny!

I was always taught that Oriental was used for objects, like an oriental rug. No one wishes to be referred to as an object. My aunt is/was Japanese. She referred to herself as either Asian or Japanese.
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Old 01-07-2013, 02:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Interesting. Do you know if they consider Middle Eastern to be an insult, or just something that prefer to not be called?
The only Middle Eastern that I knew was from Iran but preferred to be called Persian. I'm not sure if that was the PC term or her own personal preference.
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Old 01-07-2013, 03:16 PM   #13
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Oriental is not an offensive term in the UK. If someone is described as Asian over here, it usually means that they are from India/Pakistan etc. People from China and Japan etc are usually described as being from the Far East or Oriental. I do find it interesting how some terms are offensive in one English speaking country but not another.

We do often generically refer to Americans as Yanks. I'm betting it's a hangover from WWII when so many military "Yanks" were temporarily based over here but I could be completely wrong. I do have to keep telling people that Yankees are from a certain area of the US, though!
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Old 01-07-2013, 03:24 PM   #14
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The one I don't understand is "dwarf" v. "little person". I just don't get why being called a dwarf (when the medical term for the condition they have is dwarfism) is negative but being called a LITTLE person (which sounds like less of a person to me) is okay.
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Old 01-07-2013, 03:37 PM   #15
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When I write a news story, if there isn't a reason to mention race, I don't.
I worked with a Korean anchor who scolded me for writing "Fire damaged the Oriental Market today". She insisted I change it to Asian, and only back off when I pointed out that it was the actual name of the market, and that to change it would be factually incorrect.
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