Monday, 7 March 2011

How Offensive Are Words?

Yes, yes, I'm back from my unnecessary holiday and can start blogging again so all 3 of you can relax now. Anywho, enough of that - I have something I actually want to talk about today.

There are 7 countries whose names end in "stan": Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. So far so good. Now, for 4, arguably 5 of those counties, it is acceptable to call a native of that country 1 of 2 things - either take the full name of the country and add "i" (Afghanistani), or drop the "stan" or "istan" (Afghan). This also works for Tajikistan (Tajik), Kazakhstan (Kazakh), Uzbekistan (Uzbek) and arguably Turkmenistan (Turkmen), though not for Kyrgyzstan, since the chronic lack of consonants would make even a Welshman struggle. You will notice, however, that I've left the most obvious one off, for equally obvious reasons, namely that it is offensive to Pakistanis. I would still argue though that the term itself is not intrinsically offensive: had it not been adopted by xenophobic bigots throughout the history of Pakistani immigration into the UK, the word would be, I'm sure, perfectly socially acceptable. So as a result of a minority of racists who elected to use the term pejoritavely, we have been robbed of a timesaving and otherwise innocuous word, despite the word carrying no inherent offence. I'm not advocating that that word be somehow reinstated - that would be extremely tasteless given the current climate - but I find the development of language fascinating and wonder whether what should be an insignificant word will find itself in the mainstream within 100 years or so.

On another note, I saw a man on a bicycle overtake a man on one of those disgusting motorbikes (about which I've complained before) going up a hill - I found myself most amused.


Charlie x

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