Two Words To Strike From Your Vocabulary


PS: happy Oligarchy Day!

  1. “Middle Class” – in the US, which is the main place where the term is used, middle class is interchangeable with “white”. Occasionally people will point at the existence of a non-white middle class, but usually in the context that it is vanishing. The Covid-19 pandemic is serving to drive a deeper wedge between the haves and the have nots and that’s coming at the expense of the landed white people who have corporate jobs with benefits that are getting squeezed between the gears of the gig economy and off-shoring. If you do insist on still using the phrase “middle class” I suggest you use “white middle class” because that is the only middle class that has ever mattered to the US. Another reason I recommend deprecating “middle class” is because the people it’s referring to are the ones that were granted some economic advancement through whiteness-support programs like separate education, loans tied to owning real estate, red-lining, the G.I. bill (which almost entirely benefited whites) and FHA loans – the “middle class” was created white, and was always intended to be white.
  2. “Anglo Saxon” – this one floored me when I found out what was going on with it. It came into popular usage around the time Madison Grant was flogging his masterpiece of wretchedness The Passing of The Great Race – one of the foundational texts of scientific racism. It doesn’t sound so bad, at first, until you discover that it was specifically framed that way to exclude the Irish. Grant wanted to be able to say, as many have since, that greatness in the world came from the whitey mcwhiteface Scandinavians and chinless English, who are plenty pale because the sun only shines on England one day a week. Or something. I suppose that, in Grant’s terms, the very best of the English were the ones who have vikings in their ancestry due to the rape, loot, pillage or something like that. Grant did not theorize that the non-chinless English have square-jawed Scandinavians in their ancestry, but it’s pretty obvious that’s what’s going on, right? Anyhow, using the term “anglo saxon” flags you as a racist, even if you don’t know it.

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I actually own a copy of The Passing of The Great Race and periodically I pick it up and look at it and think about doing a posting about it. It’s a complicated topic and a difficult problem, because to post about it, I’d have to be able to find something tangible in it that could be engaged with critically – and it’s just a great big reeking mass of codswallop. It’s an interesting technique: it asserts a bunch of stuff based on no science at all, then proceeds to build on its own assertions to a conclusion that doesn’t even make sense. Let me give you an example: Grant claims that neat, small, round-headed Scandinavian skulls contain the best brains because, ummmmm…. Well, they do. Given that, though, neat small, round-headed female skulls are not even mentioned because Grant’s own dumbass theory would make women and Kalahari bushmen superior. I would say it’s a masterpiece of cherry-picked facts except the cherry-picked facts don’t even hold together into a coherent theory. Here’s another example: Grant feels it is clear that white people should rule the world because they are superior by dint of their genetics and wossname. But, why? Nobody appears to have asked Grant, “aren’t you saying that white people are more vicious and violent totalitarians than everybody else? Haven’t you just written a book that should be entitled What The Fuck Is Wrong With White People? Because that makes as much sense from what you have written as anything else does.” It’s hard to pick ideas out of Grant that are worth engaging with, but unfortunately his ideas still hold sway to a tremendous degree in the US. Because the great shithole of a country is built on such poor reasoning.

Grant has a pretty nice small round skull, though he’s prematurely bald and clearly not very bright. Why is it that white supremacists insist on illustrating the invalidity of their ideas, using themselves?

“Mulatto” ought to be, by now, out of your vocabulary, but if it’s not now’s the time. The world derives from “mule” – the implication being that enslaved black people who were raped by whites demonstrated hybrid vigor.

 

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    “Middle Class” – in the US, which is the main place where the term is used

    L literally OL at that.

    Americans quite obviously don’t understand what class even is – see the laughably simplistic idea that there’s such a thing as “the” middle class, or the even more crass concept that class is a concept inescapably linked to wealth.

    Then again, thanks to the last forty or so years of Conservative and Conservative-lite government, most English people don’t really get it either. England, I would contend, is the main place where the term is used, but no English person could identify a single middle class. It’s way more complex than that, and the complexity is a deliberate control mechanism, much like religion. (It’s arguable that the class system IS a religion in England.) The poshos deliberately keep us looking up and down at those around us to keep us from putting them in tumbrils.

    landed white people who have corporate jobs with benefits that are getting squeezed between the gears of the gig economy and off-shoring

    I have bad news for such people. They’re not middle class, and never were. They’re working class made good, is all. If your job can be offshored, or subjected to a zero-hours contract, you’re a worker, sorry. I don’t care if you drive a Mercedes and go to a chalet in Aspen for Christmas – you most likely lease that Mercedes and you almost certainly don’t own that chalet. You’ve been systematically conned into thinking you’re better than working class by decades of upper and middle class conservatives who want you to think you’re on a par with them. You’re not. You never were.

    The archetype of this con was the mid-80s Conservative wheeze under Thatcher of allowing council house tenants to buy their homes and buy shares in privatised public utilities like British Gas. Coal miners and welders suddenly started reading the Financial Times… just before they were all made redundant. I know shop assistants who still think they’re middle class, ffs. Meanwhile many of those former council houses are now part of the property portfolios belonging to middle class property developers and no social housing stock has been built to take its place. Win-win… for the rich.

    The gig economy and off-shoring are strictly working class problems. Middle class people complain about school fees and the number of Russians in Courchevel. It’s a different world.

    There absolutely is a middle class, but it is and always has been tiny, insular and yes, mainly but far from exclusively white. If you want to talk to a really unreconstructed, unapologetically racist middle class person, Indian doctors are in my experience shockingly reliable.

    I’d say don’t stop using the term “middle class”, just try to only use it correctly, instead of falling for the upper-classes’ con that “we’re all middle class now” – we’re not.

    Anyhow, using the term “anglo saxon” flags you as a racist, even if you don’t know it

    The difficulty with that is that if you’re white and trying to identify as an oppressed ethnic minority (as the Irish do in England for instance), you need a term for the majority so you can set yourself apart from it. “White” doesn’t cut it (and btw if you think it rains a lot in England, try the west of Ireland). “English” doesn’t really work either, because that implies that Asians and black people aren’t English, which they emphatically are, millions of ’em. “Anglo-Saxon” is imperfect as it erases the Danes (they’re your “square jawed Scandinavians”, the actual Angles, Saxons and Jutes having come from rather further south) and the Normans from our ancestry, but it’s a serviceable term for an ethnic grouping and the Irish, Scots and Cornish can identify as “Celts” in opposition to it.

    Apart from anything else, before you cancel it you’re going to have to come up with an alternative that works.

  2. Jazzlet says

    I guess Grant missed the Viking settlement of Dublin which, as with the equivilents in England he does recognise, resulted in an influx of Scandinavian blood into Ireland.

  3. says

    Jazzlet@#2:
    I think he felt that the Scandinavian blood was being adulterated with (shudder) Irish, or something.

    This is what I mean about how hard it is to extract some kind of real theory from his work: none of it is consistent, it’s just cherry-picking and assertion. You can interpret reality any way you like under his terms. Based on his racial theory of traits, we can just as easily ask “why are white people so violent?” as “why are white people so successful?” (since the former answers the latter)

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    sonofrojblake @1:

    “Anglo-Saxon” is imperfect as it erases the Danes (they’re your “square jawed Scandinavians”, the actual Angles, Saxons and Jutes having come from rather further south) and the Normans from our ancestry…

    The Jutes (and some Angles) did come from what later became Denmark. The Danes occupied that area much later. But yeah, the Danes, starting centuries after the Angles, etc came, did contribute a fair amount to the gene pool (in the Danelaw), and the language, in England.

    If we’re talking ancestry rather than culture, the biggest erasure that comes from the use of “Anglo-Saxon” is the Britons who stayed in the areas occupied by the Germanic invaders. They still constitute possibly the largest genetic component of the modern population.

    I remember reading a comment by a historian who said that, in the battles with Celts in the West Country a century after the initial incursions of Germanic people, you basically had Britons on one side, and Saxonized Britons on the other side.

  5. garnetstar says

    My family is all Italian, peasants all the way back to forever. We didn’t used to be “white” either (I’m not familiar with the current thinking of white nationalists on this point.)

    Does Grant’s magnum opus have anything to say about us? I’m so anxious to know whether I’m part of the Great Race or not. (My sister is blonde, if that helps.:))

  6. says

    Anyhow, using the term “anglo saxon” flags you as a racist, even if you don’t know it.

    Hmm, is there a dictionary with all the words and phrases that makes a person racist? I’m asking, because I’d like to have such a list with words I’m not supposed to use. As a non-native English speaker with little interest in American culture, I only know that I am not allowed to use the word “nigger,” but beyond that I have no clue about what other words Americans now dislike. How the hell is the average non-native English speaker even supposed to learn about which words to avoid? Without being immersed in USA culture, we won’t pick it up naturally. Yet nonetheless, we are judged if we accidentally use some word Americans now frown upon.

    In Latvia we currently have a stupid scandal about this. There’s a Latvian ice cream manufacturer who makes an ice cream with black currants. They called said ice cream “Melnītis” in Latvian. Then they translated the Latvian word “Melnītis” into the closet English approximation and ended up with the name “Blacky.” (In Latvian the word “Melnītis” has no negative or racial connotations at all.) And now said ice cream manufacturer is getting accused of being racist. Their response was: “How were we supposed to know that Americans have a problem with this word, dictionaries define the word “blacky” as “somewhat black, blackish”; if Americans perceive this word as racist they ought to have put said information in dictionaries so that non-native English speakers who are not familiar with American culture know that they must avoid using this word.” Indeed. Before this scandal I had no clue that some people have a problem with the word “blacky.” And I actually write a blog in English.

    By the way, this blog post is the first time I see anyone claiming that the word “anglo saxon” is racist. I mean, I have seen words “anglo saxon” used in various contexts everywhere without noticing any racist connotations. Then again, I am horrible at noticing connotations per se, often I cannot figure out what people want to say unless they state it directly.

  7. springa73 says

    It seems to me that most Americans like to think of themselves as middle class, regardless of whether they are under any reasonable definition of the term. Sometimes it seems like the only people not considered middle class in the US are the super rich on one end and the homeless on the other. When you stretch the definition to include most people, it loses most of its meaning.

    It is also interesting how people in the US tend to think of class as connected to money (wealth and/or income) whereas in the UK it seems to be a more complex mix of how people act and what they do for a living and what products they buy. A lot of what the British regard as class would simply be seen as individual lifestyle choices or personality traits in the US.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    I do feel a mild curiosity as to whether George Grant (author of The American Patriot’s Handbook: The Writings, History, and Spirit of a Free Nation, Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood, The Blood of the Moon: Understanding the Historic Struggle Between Islam and Western Civilization, and several other essential tomes for the RWNJ library [two! on Theodore Roosevelt]), has any genealogical connection to his ideological ancestor Madison G.

    The latter at least made positive contributions to preserving endangered species and their habitat.

  9. cartomancer says

    The term “Anglo-Saxon” is used rather differently in the British Isles. We use it to refer to the historical period from about the Fifth Century when the Angle and Saxon (and Jute!) colonists arrived to the Norman Conquest of 1066 – the “Anglo-Saxon Era”. We also use it as an alternative to “Old English” to refer to the language spoken in that period, the language of Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Very rarely do we use it to refer to people, and then only really in historical contexts to contrast post-conquest individuals with Angle or Saxon ancestry with the incoming Vikings and Normans. Though, of course, as stated above, “Anglo-Saxon” implicitly tends to include Jutish, pre-Saxon Celtic and even some Viking settlers who became part of the culture of England in that period of the early Middle Ages. It is used as a cultural, not an ethnic, marker.

    To most English people, the idea that there were any distinctive “Anglo-Saxons” after about the Twelfth Century is silly.

  10. Owlmirror says

    WikiP:

    Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066,

    The problem is not the term “Anglo-Saxon” per se, but with the bizarre conflation of the term with the idea of some sort of inherited traditional ethnic purity and “honour”. Come to think of it, the term “Aryan” has the same issues. Historians used the term from Indo-Iranian history to refer to the people of Indo-Iranian ethnicity; racists appropriated it and incoherently claimed that it was somehow applicable to Germanic people because of some sort of inherited traditional ethnic purity and “honour”.

    You can’t blame historians and linguists for crackpot racists stealing their terms to use to promote racism any more than you can blame geneticists for crackpot pseudoscientists who stole the term “DNA” and came up with “twelve-strand DNA” and similar nonsense.

  11. cartomancer says

    Admittedly, if you are a warlike fool who appreciates a good bit of colonial violence, you could do worse than using the names of the Angles and the Saxons for your manufactured identity. After all, both peoples were known by names derived from their favourite weapons – a curved hook in the case of the Angles, a short, heavy sword in the case of the Saxons. It would be like Americans calling themselves the AK-47 people today.

  12. brucegee1962 says

    @cartomancer, I knew that about the Angles, but not about the Saxons. I’m going to use your last analogy with my students from now on, when we reach that point of lit-hist.

  13. Owlmirror says

    I actually own a copy of The Passing of The Great Race and periodically I pick it up and look at it and think about doing a posting about it. It’s a complicated topic and a difficult problem, because to post about it, I’d have to be able to find something tangible in it that could be engaged with critically – and it’s just a great big reeking mass of codswallop. It’s an interesting technique: it asserts a bunch of stuff based on no science at all, then proceeds to build on its own assertions to a conclusion that doesn’t even make sense.

    I had a similar problem with Mein Kampf. I originally just wanted to confirm that Hitler was a creationist who believed in species fixity, but I tried continuing on, and it’s all so much blather.

    It might be possible to tie it in to conspiracist thinking. Here’s the abstract of that paper (Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories) again:

    Conspiracy theories can form a monological belief system: A self-sustaining worldview comprised of a network of mutually supportive beliefs. The present research shows that even mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively correlated in endorsement. In Study 1 (n = 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered. In Study 2 (n = 102), the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive. Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up (Study 2). The monological nature of conspiracy belief appears to be driven not by conspiracy theories directly supporting one another but by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general.

    Although in the case of racism, it might not be “conspiracy theories” in general, but rather “racial supremacy” in general.

  14. says

    Wasn’t there a lot of bullshit about the Anglo-Saxon races meaning both the Americans and English at the end of the 19th Century and possibly including the Germans?

  15. springa73 says

    robertbaden @16

    Yes, I’m pretty sure that was true. I believe that sometimes “Anglo-Saxon” was used as a synonym for “white British or descendants thereof”, and sometimes it was expanded to include Germans and maybe Scandinavians.

  16. Owlmirror says

    @brucegee1962: I’m pretty sure, by the way, that cartomancer is referring to the seax for the Saxons.

    However, the page on the Angles does not mention the hook as a preferred weapon, but instead suggests they were fisher-folk.

    Anglers and daggers?

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    Madison Grant didn’t start the idealization of “the Anglo-Saxon people” in US historiography:

    He [young Thomas Jefferson] had also read in translation Tacitus’s Germania, the key source of the Whig historians because of its description of the Saxon model of representative government before contamination by feudal monarchs. So Jefferson’s youthful reading in standard works of Whig history unquestionably helped shape his political thinking before 1776 and was one reason he consistently referred to ‘the ancient Whig principles’ as the wellspring for the values underlying the movement for American independence. … precisely because they told a story that fitted perfectly with the way his mind worked. Their romantic endorsement of a pristine past, a long-lost time and place where men had lived together in perfect harmony without coercive laws or predatory rulers, gave narrative shape to his fondest imaginings and to utopian expectations with deep roots in his personality.

    – Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, pg 37

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    cartomancer @ # 13: It would be like Americans calling themselves the AK-47 people today.

    That’s the AR-15 people, you decadent firearms-illiterate egghead!

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    cartomancer and Owlmirror re ‘Angles’. I have long been under the impression that their name derives from their homeland ‘Angeln’ (having to do with the geography of the area) rather than from their occupations or their weapons. I doubt they were the only fisher-folk living near the sea, and I’ve never heard of them using hooks as weapons. Is there any archaeology on that?

    Or I could just be full of shit.

  20. lumipuna says

    I believe that sometimes “Anglo-Saxon” was used as a synonym for “white British or descendants thereof”, and sometimes it was expanded to include Germans and maybe Scandinavians.

    I have long assumed the USian usage of “Anglo-Saxon” originated sometime after revolution, when the ruling elites of former colonies found it politically awkward to describe themselves ethnically as “English”.

    Of course, most often people simply described themselves as “white”, especially in contrast with the dark-skinned slave class and the natives. Often it was politically convenient to lump all European immigrants (meaning for example Germans, Swedes, Irish etc. who often spoke little or no English) into a new pan-European ethnic construction, or whiteness in a broad sense.

    But then again, there was a sense or distinction between the “proper” white people and the non-English riffraff. Celts, in particular, had been traditionally vilified as barbarians by the English in Britain and Ireland, since they had been conquered by English, but stubbornly resisted genocide and assimilation.

    To be properly white, in a narrow sense, was to be “Anglo-Saxon” or ethnically English (or Anglo-American, in terms of modern scholarly language). This wouldn’t necessarily require a fully/mostly English immigrant ancestry, but you’d have to be (in addition to being pale-skinned) sufficiently assimilated into the colonial English language, religion and culture. Indeed, the immigrant origin of Anglo-Americans was always highly diverse and mostly non-English, but the English language and mostly English/Celtic based culture prevailed.

  21. springa73 says

    lumipuna @22

    Yes, there was a tension throughout US history until recent times between straightforward white supremacy and the tendency to break “whites” up into sub-categories, with the “lower” categories considered not “really white” at all. The overall tendency over time was to expand the category of “white” until by the mid-20th century it included basically anyone of European ancestry, or who could pass for being of European ancestry. At various times, though, there was debate among racist elites about whether the Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Italians, Poles, Jews, Russians, and others were “really white” or whether they should be ranked closer to African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian immigrants as “inferior” and potentially dangerous. Years ago I read a very interesting book about this phenomenon with the title Whiteness of a Different Color.

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    springa73 @ # 23: … debate among racist elites about whether the Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Italians, Poles, Jews, Russians, and others were “really white”…

    Which continues today, mostly regarding Arabs, Turks, Kurds, and other Middle Eastern/Central Asian peoples.

    I’m so glad none of this gets put to an official vote.

  23. sonofrojblake says

    @Andreas Avester, 7:

    is there a dictionary with all the words and phrases that makes a person racist?

    That’s a laudable goal but the problem is you could never publish it, for two reasons.

    First, there’d be a horde of SJWs lining up to decry its very existence, no matter how sensible or honourable your reasons for preparing it are.

    Second, you can pretty much guarantee that between you completing the final draft and the thing being printed and appearing in any bookshop, the SJW hivemind would have decided that another couple of dozen previously entirely innocuous words were now grounds for being cancelled. Additionally, they’d have likely decided to “reclaim” at least half a dozen of the words you’d put in, so they’d have become acceptable to use, but only by the previous targets. In short, it would always be out of date, and given the career-destroying consequences of getting this kind of thing wrong, you wouldn’t want the legal liability.

    Worse still, because us SJWs are not, despite what the right might say, an homogeneous group, there’d be some words that even some self-identifying SJWs would regard as acceptable to use, which other self-identifying SJWs would consider slurs. It’s terribly, terribly complicated, and there’s a much simpler solution…

    How were we supposed to know that Americans have a problem with this word

    Simple answer: you weren’t. You can just roll your eyes and ignore them and their inability to process context or make allowances for people operating in a second (or third, or fourth) language. Another example, potentially even more egregious, because it involves an American criticising the use of English by the fucking English, as though they own the language and are the arbiters thereof.

    In the UK “Asian” means brown people from (mainly) India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. People from China, Japan, Korea etc. – NOT brown – are oriental. Both terms are a polite way of not assuming which country you’re actually from. The Chinese/Japanese/Thai food aisle in my local supermarket has a banner over it saying “Oriental food”. It’s an everyday term.

    I’m aware that in the US, again due to patterns of immigration, “Asian” mainly means oriental people. Fair enough.

    However, in an online forum a few years back I was angrily informed by a self-righteous Yank that describing someone as “Oriental” was as bad as using the n-word. I pointed out that this was provably false, at least where I live, but since when was evidence important? This was about someone’s feelings. (I think it’s quite important to point out that the objector in question was pretty clear about the fact that they themselves were NOT oriental themselves, and that they were objecting on behalf of people who were).

    So there’s another simple answer to the problem: that Americans just get the fuck over themselves and realise that their particular peculiarities are not the standard and that the world and indeed the universe does not revolve around them and their feels.

    I shall not be holding my breath for that eventuality.

    I have a question for you, given your impressive range of languages: are any others as much of a minefield of potential offence?

  24. seachange says

    @8 Pierce

    “Hot dog” is a single word, even though it has a space in it. Mr. Ranum has only mentioned two words.

  25. John Morales says

    seachange, sorta; technically, they’re compound terms consisting of two words.

    Re the OP, ‘Judeo-Christian’ would fit.

  26. cartomancer says

    The precise origin of the name Angles is, admittedly, somewhat obscure. We know that the Saxons were named after their signature weapon (it is just barely possible that this itself derives from the Latin word saxa, for stone, or a Germanic cognate of it, but very unlikely), and it is, admittedly, a conjecture that the Angles were too. Their territory was called Angeln (Anglia in Latin), but it was usual in the Ancient world and early Middle Ages to name a territory after the people who lived there, not the other way around.

    Indeed, the extent to which the Angles and the Saxons were separate peoples is open to interpretation – to outsiders they were often all referred to either as Angles (mainly by the church in continental Europe) or Saxons (by their Celtic enemies, which is still the case in some places), and it is possible that the distinction was more one of local preference or cultural context rather than specific ethnic origin (Bede may well have assumed that the Angles and Saxons were separate and distinct peoples because the two words existed in his time, and furnished them with an aetiology story to fit that belief). Gildas several hundred years earlier than Bede only talked about Saxons, Gregory the Great a touch later only about Angles.

    It is probable that the word Angles does originate either in the Latin angulus (corner, bend) or the Germanic eng (a hook, which would be uncus in Latin). It is certainly only attested in Latin sources for many hundreds of years. Tacitus mentions a German tribe called the Anglii at the end of the 1st Century AD, but whether these were the same people who colonised the British Isles centuries later is anyone’s guess. Whether these Anglii even called themselves that is entirely unknown – it could very well just be other people’s term for “the people who live by the bend in the river” or “the people who live on the hooked peninsula” or “the people who live in that corner over there”.

  27. says

    cartomancer@#28:
    We know that the Saxons were named after their signature weapon

    I’m not sure who you mean by “we” but that was news to me! Cool fact, thanks.

  28. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#24:
    Which continues today, mostly regarding Arabs, Turks, Kurds, and other Middle Eastern/Central Asian peoples.

    It’s a fascinating study in stupid. The thing is, the racists have to believe that their superior people came from somewhere since the whole idea is basically an origin story. So, we must find the origin of white people, because white people didn’t simply happen – they cannot possibly just be a cultural trend.

    The “caucasian origins” trope tries to situate white people as coming from Georgia (Euro-Georgia, not Atlanta) and Ukraine, which is derived from an Ottoman-era fetish for central European sex slaves – the idea was to selectively breed for lighter skin as a sign of power and prestige. Although, I have trouble seeing how someone can claim with a straight face to be superior because they are partly descended from slaves. Making sense is a hard problem for racists; their racial theories are a patchwork of imaginings and half-facts. There is also an attached trope of “Circassian beauties” which were – oddly enough – a circus act of P.T. Barnum’s, but an attainable goal for an Ottoman lordling. The ideal “Circassian slave girl” for the Ottoman was a very different look from Barnum’s version; if you do an image search for “Circassian beauty” you’ll get a weird mix, indeed.

    I should have been more explicit: these ideas do not entirely originate with Madison Grant. Pseudo-scientific racism has deep roots and a long history. The US’ founding flounders propped up their racist politics with sciency-sounding bullshit in order to justify their high-sounding enlightenment words on one hand, and their slave-raping ways on the other. I am, of course, referring to that arch-mediocrity Thomas Jefferson. What Madison Grant did was pull a lot of bad science together out of the aether and publish it between two pieces of cardboard, thereby making it official truth.

  29. lorn says

    MR@OP: “It’s hard to pick ideas out of Grant that are worth engaging with, but unfortunately his ideas still hold sway to a tremendous degree in the US. Because the great shithole of a country is built on such poor reasoning.”

    Grant wrote in a way that flatters and cajoles his target audience. But mainly he provides an origin story and identity to a self-identified cohort hereafter known as ‘middle-class, Anglo-Saxon, protestants’. Otherwise known, quite truthfully, as the black and brown people (same with all humans) who went north, adapted to high latitudes by becoming white, and often came back insufferably full of themselves.

    As with most identities it is largely about feelings. The lack of actual facts is something of a feature. Facts can be debated and efficiently shown to be more or less correct. Feelings are not so easily processed and discarded, particularly feelings as dear to a population as their origin and identity myths.

  30. sonofrojblake says

    People are suckers for an origin story. I mean, if I see a mugger pull the pearl necklace from around Martha Wayne’s neck one more goddamn time I swear I’ll…

  31. lumipuna says

    Coming from (almost) the same place as Andreas Avester, I’m not much familiar on how exactly “Anglo-Saxon” is used in contemporary US English, and why it shouldn’t be used that way. It doesn’t seem to be very commonly used, anyhow?

    I do remember one occasion from Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He was visiting the UK, for some reason, and while speaking there he waxed poetic about America’s “Anglo-Saxon heritage”, which supposedly connects the US and UK as nations. Naturally, commentators in UK thought it was bizarre use of language – and we can assume it was mainly targeted for voters at home.

    I saw some on the US left call it out as a racist dogwhistle. Apparently, it evoked the specter of ethnic nationalism in US, a purpose for which “white” and “Anglo-Saxon” are largely synonymous, but the latter sounds kind of euphemistic and deniably ethnicist, as in not-really-about-skin-color-but-culture.

  32. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 30: … I have trouble seeing how someone can claim with a straight face to be superior because they are partly descended from slaves.

    Get in your time machine and go ask an ancient Hebrew priest – especially if you can locate the ones who invented the “Abraham” myth and the (archeologically-contradicted) Exodus epic.

  33. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 30: The “caucasian origins” trope tries to situate white people as coming from Georgia (Euro-Georgia, not Atlanta) and Ukraine, which is derived from an Ottoman-era fetish for central European sex slaves…

    Got a source on that one?

    My reading had it that an early-Victorian ethnographer named Johann Friedrich Blumenbach decided to dub honkies “Caucasians” because he preferred, in the pre-Darwinian taxonomic fashion, to identify each grouping by an ideal or “pure” specimen, and – he was well-traveled, gotta give him that – felt that natives of the Caucasian mountains comprised the best-looking palefaces on the planet.

    Also, I (maybe naively) see some problems with selective breeding of sex slaves for any feature not found in the dominant population. How would any would-be human-wrangler introduce paler-skinned donors’ semen into brood stock getting preferentially impregnated by Turkic overlords, and how many would bother with a project requiring (with a few probably low-survival exceptions) well over a decade for even a first-generation salable product?

  34. says

    sonofrojblake @#25

    Yeah, I see the practical problems why such a dictionary would be impossible to make. But the fact that such a dictionary does not exist means that Americans have no right to accuse me of being racist for using some word or phrase they dislike; especially with the obscure words. For example, the n-word is so widely known as a racial insult that I’m OK with Americans automatically being suspicious towards somebody who uses this word. But all those thousands of words that somebody somewhere associates with bigotry and insults… It’s not like the average person who doesn’t live in American culture can possibly keep up with the growing list of words you now must avoid using.

    However, in an online forum a few years back I was angrily informed by a self-righteous Yank that describing someone as “Oriental” was as bad as using the n-word.

    In Latvian language anybody from Asia (continent) is called “Asian” with only a few exceptions for some Middle Eastern ethnicities. There doesn’t exist anything similar to the word “Oriental.”

    I have a tendency to use words in other languages with their Latvian meanings mixed in. For example, the Latvian word for “teen” refers to people aged 11 to 17. In Latvian 18 and 19 years old people are called adults. The first time I heard about “teen porn” in English, I freaked out. It took me a while to realize that in English people who are 18 or 19 are called “teens.”

    are any others as much of a minefield of potential offence?

    Yes and no. In every language there are terms you must avoid. For example, before WWII in Latvian Jews were called “žīdi.” After WWII, the word “žīdi” became a very rude insult, nowadays you must refer to Jews with the word “ebreji.” Such things exist in every language.

    The difference is that native speakers of other languages do not expect me to know such intricacies and they don’t get offended when I say something wrong, instead they just assume that I must have been clueless and explain the problem to me.

    Native English speakers, especially Americans, assume that the world revolves around them and that everybody must be familiar with their culture. Whenever I say something that some American perceives as problematic, they get offended and attack me.

  35. John Morales says

    Andreas:

    It took me a while to realize that in English people who are 18 or 19 are called “teens.”

    Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, …, eighteen, nineteen. That’s why.

  36. StevoR says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 30: The “caucasian origins” trope tries to situate white people as coming from Georgia (Euro-Georgia, not Atlanta) and Ukraine, which is derived from an Ottoman-era fetish for central European sex slaves…

    Yet when I think of famous Georgian people the first one I tend to think of is Stalin – and didn’t the Cold War era propagandists try to paint him and the Soviets then as (sorry) “Asiatic” in a pretty racist way. Also from what I gather – possibly mistakenly – isn’t there a strong prejudice and racism in England against a lot of East European (Polish, etc .. ) heritage people? At certain times in Australian culture there was certainly bias against them with offensive terms like (sorry) “wogs” being commonplace.

    I think I also vaguely recall that the term “Aryan”is linked with / derived from the same word that gives Iran its name if memory serves?

    When it comes to using eastern / Western, Occidental / Oriental and even Middle Eastern I think it makes sense to use the names of the continents for background but note its often very eurocentric defining areas as seen from an English perspective whereas we could and mightbe better off simply defining interms of the continets eg SouthWest Asian instead of “middle eastern”, South Asian for Indian – although I guess that also applie seven more so to Thais and Malaysians who get southeast Asian, North Asian for Chinese and Mongolians, etc ..

    @9. springa73 :

    It seems to me that most Americans like to think of themselves as middle class, regardless of whether they are under any reasonable definition of the term. Sometimes it seems like the only people not considered middle class in the US are the super rich on one end and the homeless on the other. When you stretch the definition to include most people, it loses most of its meaning.

    Agree and its similar here in Oz although we sometiems like to think of Australia as a “classless” society which were not. We like to mock the Upper-middle lower class divisions of the English and the formality of it and have our own “bogan” category to mock the poorer less well educated working class people although that’s a mixed perception. (See : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogan ) So its complex and hidden but yes, we have a real division here too often expressed in occupational terms eg white-collar vs blue collar workers. Tradies versus “housos” those living in housing estates – poorer “lower” socio-economic classes, etc ..

  37. sonofrojblake says

    isn’t there a strong prejudice and racism in England against a lot of East European (Polish, etc .. ) heritage people?

    Not really. Certainly not to the extent there is/was in the US, and very definitely not to the extent that there’s racism against Asians or black people. This despite the Polish population of the UK growing by a factor of TEN between 2001 and 2011 (and that’s the legal ones), and the large majority of those people giving the strong impression of “takin’ our jerbs”. Even racists in England, though, recognise a few critical differences between Poles and other immigrant communities. First and most obviously – they’re white. Until they open their mouths, you’re can’t even tell they’re foreign – they don’t go round in pyjamas or masks (at least, not until fairly recently). Second, they’re generally gainfully employed in trades or professions – the stereotype is the plumber/builder who turns up and does the job cleanly and professionally for half the cost and in half the time of their English equivalent. Most of them are not just opening corner shops or curry houses, although you’d be hard pressed in most towns near me to go far without seeing a “Polski Sklep”, something you’d never have seen before about 2005. They’re also not generally arriving with massive families in tow, most of whom don’t speak English and require the council to provide them with a translator so they can claim their benefits. They’re culturally not that far from the English – they smoke, drink, eat pork and are mostly Catholic. If you know ANY history beyond “two world wars and one world cup, doodah”, then you generally know that we’d have been much worse off without them in the Battle of Britain, the Enigma decoding and other crucial efforts in that second war. And most importantly, the vast majority of them have no intention of staying – they’re here to make some money, then go home. Again, this is so well known as to be a stereotype. “Why don’t you go back where you come from?” is deflated as a question when the answer is “I’ve already booked the ticket, mate. Now do you want me to finish installing this shower or not?”.

    The Daily Mail (aka Daily Heil) did try to rile up England about the deluge of Bulgarians we were supposed to be getting when they acceded to the EU, but entertainingly almost none of the buggers turned up, and in any case once again how would we know, because they’re white too and your average Brit can’t tell Bulgarian from Polish when they hear it spoken anyway.

  38. cvoinescu says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 30: … I have trouble seeing how someone can claim with a straight face to be superior because they are partly descended from slaves.

    Misogyny is what makes this logic work — or at least reduces the level of doublethink needed. The father is the donor of the genetic material, the mother is just an incubator, so obviously the offspring is still just as noble as the father. Quite how you reconcile this with the very fact that you specifically choose a white mother to get the lighter skin offspring, I’m not sure. I think it works if you believe that the important characteristics come only from the father.

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