Colored Person of Color

Something I have been wondering. Why is it that saying colored person is considered offensive and even racist while saying person of color is politically correct? Aren’t the two phases saying the same thing? If colored person is offensive then why isn’t the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) offensive? Shouldn’t they change their name to the National Association for the Advancement of Persons of Color (NAACoP)? I can understand why the word negro might be a problem since it sounds a lot like another, less polite word, but negro is not really the same word. Still, if negro is offensive, then why hasn’t the United Negro College Fund changed its name.

African-American is the current politically correct word for a Black person, but Black and African-American are not synonymous. It is possible to be a White African-American if you are a White immigrant from South Africa or North Africa. There is a tendency to refer to any Black person as an African-American even in science fiction or fantasy. A dark-skinned person in a story set in the distant future need not be an African American. He could just as easily be from Africa, France or Rigel 5. People who refer to all Blacks as African Americans may be trying to be politically correct, but sometimes they are simply being foolish.

The politically correct way to refer to people from places like China, Japan, and so on is to call them Asians. Orientals, the old word is no longer acceptable. Why? Neither word is accurate. Asia is a large continent and the word Asians covers a large and diverse population.  Indians, Iranians, Arabs, Turks and many other people could be described as Asians. Oriental simply means easterner. Anyone could be from the east. To a person living in France or England, a German, Russian or Greek could be an Oriental. Traditionally, Oriental was used to refer to people from what we now call the Middle East. Either way, it seems strange that Oriental is suspect while Asian is politically correct. Why is this?

The people who lived in the Americans when Christopher Columbus arrived used to be called Indians because Columbus thought he had discovered the Indies. This, of course, is more than a little ridiculous since the “Indians” have nothing to do with India or the Indies. More recently the proper term has been Native Americans. The problem with Native Americans is that the Native Americans are not the only people who are native to America. I am a native American. I was born here in America. I did not immigrate here from anywhere else. As far as I can determine, my ancestors have been here for two hundred years. How am I not a native? Lately, the proper term has been swinging back towards Indians or American Indians. Why?

Who decides what names are acceptable and politically correct and what names are wrong and why do the correct terms keep changing? Is there some committee somewhere that decides these things? Do they keep changing the politically correct nomenclature just to mess with the rest of us? Is this a way to get people in trouble by changing the vocabulary so that people who use old words can be condemned as racist when needed?

It seems to me that the people who are the most concerned with using the proper, politically correct jargon are less interested in promoting tolerance and harmony among people than in bullying and pushing people around. They may claim to be trying to eliminate racism and prejudice, political correctness really seems to be more about enlightened and tolerant few asserting power over the benighted and deplorable many. I have observed that these people who are overly concerned that every little group be called by the proper terms, lest they be offended and marginalized, are not really very concerned with treating their fellow human beings with tolerance and consideration.

It seems to me that how we treat people is far more important than the precise words we use to describe them and that If no offense is intended, then no offense should be taken. It is the actions and intent that matter, not the precise words we use. It matters less whether we say Asians rather than Orientals or Person of Color rather than Colored Person than whether we treat people of whatever race and color with justice, charity, and tolerance. Maybe we would all get along better if we worried more about how we act rather than what we say.

Anglish

I have mentioned in passing how the Norman Conquest of 1066 fundamentally changed the English Language. When William the Conqueror and his French speaking Normans defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings and took over the Kingdom of England, French became the language of administration, the court, literature, and polite society generally. English was relegated to being a language of the conquered, spoken largely by servants and serfs. After about two centuries the Norman kings and nobility began to think of themselves as English and to speak the English language. English became, once again, the language of England and thanks to Chaucer and others, English was renewed as a language of literature equal to French. But it was no longer the language of Beowulf and Alfred the Great. The Old English, spoken by the Anglo-Saxons had become Latinized and Frenchified, the language historians call “Middle English. As a result, fully half the words in the English Language ultimately derive from Latin, either directly or though one of the Romance Languages, mostly French.

What would English be like if William the Conqueror had lost the Battle of Hastings and remained simply William the Bastard, the Norman Duke who failed to capture England? Would we still be speaking Anglo-Saxon? Would Beowulf, the oldest work of literature written in English be comprehensible to the modern English speaker, instead of seeming to be a strange dialect of German? Probably not. Languages change over time, even in the absence of foreign invasions. The Norman conquest marks a decisive breaking point between Old and Middle English, but the language was changing anyway. Still, there would probably be more of a continuity between Old and Middle English without the break of the Norman conquest.

If he had lost…

While there probably wouldn’t be the vast influx of Latin words entering the English Language from French, there would be some borrowing. Latin was the language of the Church and of scholarship and France was just across the English Channel. The vocabulary of Modern English would probably be more German with fewer words derived from Latin. The total number of words might be smaller, but it is really hard to know just how many words there really are in any language. Claims that English has a larger vocabulary than most languages is impossible to verify. Since the Germanic words in Modern English tend to be the more commonly used, perhaps there wouldn’t be as much of a difference as you might think. On the other hand, there are many common Latin derived words. I’m not sure I could write this post if I were confined to words derived from Anglo-Saxon.

There might have be a greater influence from Old Norse. The Vikings or Danes had been raiding and settling in England since around the later part of the eighth century and began to settle in England by the middle of the ninth century. At one point around half of England was under the control of England. Although the Danes were driven out by King Alfred the Great, they returned and from 1013-1042, England was ruled by Danish kings. Shortly before the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinson had defeated an invading army of Norsemen. This long relationship between the Anglo-Saxons and VIkings added Old Norse words to the English language including, scarf, skirt, keel, knot, wife, muck, mire, and many others. If the Normans had not conquered England, perhaps the Scandinavians would have. English could be a lot closer to Scandinavian languages such as Danish or Norwegian. England could be considered another Scandinavian country.

If the Anglo-Saxons had managed to maintain control over England, perhaps Modern English would be something like Anglish. Anglish is English which has been purified or purged of foreign words. You can learn all about it at The Anglish Moot, a Wiki devoted to the subject with articles in English and Anglish telling what they are doing towards make the English language more English along with Wikipedia style articles written in Anglish and translations of texts and speeches.

Here is a description of their purpose.

The aim of Anglish/New-English is:

English with many fewer words borrowed from other tongues.

Because of the fundamental changes to our language, to say that English people today speak English is like saying that the French speak Latin. The fact is that we now speak the international language, Ancwe (Ancillary World English). Unlike most nations, we no longer “own” our language. The Anglish/New English project is intended as a means of recovering the Englishness of English and of restoring ownership of the language to the English people.

Here is a part of their article on the Banded Folkdoms of Americksland (United States of America)

The Banded Folkdoms of Americksland (BFA), mainly called the Banded Folkdoms (BF or B.F.) and Americksland, is a bound groundlawful folkwealth made up of fifty folkdoms and a bound shire. The land is indwelt in midmost Northamericksland, where its forty-eight linked folkdoms and Washington, C.S. (Columbo Shire), the headtown shire, lie between the Great Frithly and Even Seas, landlinked to Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The folkdom of Shoulderland is in the northwest of the landstretch, with Canada to the east and Russland to the west across the Bering Narrowing. The folkdom of Firelands is an ilandcluster in the mid-Great Frithly Sea. Americksland also holds a few landstocks in the Great Frithly and Caribish Seas. Americksland is one of the world’s most heathenly sundry and manibreeding folklands, the outcome of great incomings  from many rikes. The earthlore and weather of the Banded Folkdoms is also sundry.

And a translation of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this greatland, a new folkship, dreamt in freedom, and sworn to the forthput that all men are made evenworthy. Now we are betrothed in a great folk-war, testing whether that folkship, or any folkship so born and so sworn, can long withstand. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.

We have come to earmark a bit of that field, as a last resting spot for those who here gave their lives that that folkship might live. It is altogether meet and seemly that we should do this. But, in a greater meaning, we can not earmark — we can not bless — we can not hallow — this ground. The bold men, living and dead, who struggled here, have blessed it, far above our wretched strength to eke or take. The world will little write, nor long ken what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be earmarked here to the unfullcame work which they who fought here have thus far so highbredly put forth. It is rather for us to be here earmarked to the great task lasting before us — that from these hallowed dead we take increased drive to that belief for which they gave the last full deed of drive — that we here highly settle that these dead shall not have died in idleness — that this folkship, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that lawmoot of the folk, by the folk, for the folk, shall not swelt from the Earth.

It’s English, but not quite the English we speak. It seems less abstract, since the Latin roots and affixes that English often uses to create new words do not always have obvious meanings unless one is familiar with Latin, maybe homier is a better way to describe Anglish. It is a language closer to German both in vocabulary and in that homey quality that I wrote about not long ago.

While Anglish is interesting, and if I were a writer who wanted to write a story set in an alternate universe in which William the Bastard lost the Battle of Hastings, I would have the characters speak in Anglish, I do not altogether approve of the idea of language purification. I believe that the idea of  language purity to be almost as silly an idea as racial purity, though not nearly as silly an idea as cultural appropriation in vogue among leftists.

Languages grow by taking words from other languages. Any attempt to keep a language pure of foreign influences only stifles its growth, causing it to become something like a linguistic bonsai tree. It is the glory of English that it has always been willing and eager to take words from other languages without shame and the Latinate words the people at the Anglish Moot disdain as foreign are every bit as English as a word with a pedigree going back to Old English.