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Old 4th October 2022, 10:54 AM   #161
d4m10n
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
Unless you happen to speak Algonquin, "Squaw" is only and has only been a racial slur.
Quite a bold claim.

Quote:
In that case the Indian brave sits around and watches the squaw work — a situation that is true for many non-Indian braves who sit and watch their non-Indian squaws work.
In this passage, the author was making a point against (cross-cultural) male sexism. Do you think he was also being racially derogatory?

Quote:
Now what my mother told me one day as we sat at dinner together,

Of when she was a nearly grown girl living home with her parents on the old homestead.

A red squaw came one breakfast-time to the old homestead,

On her back she carried a bundle of rushes for rush-bottoming chairs,

Her hair, straight, shiny, coarse, black, profuse, half-envelop'd her face,

Her step was free and elastic, and her voice sounded exquisitely as she spoke.

My mother look'd in delight and amazement at the stranger,

She look'd at the freshness of her tall-borne face and full and pliant limbs,

The more she look'd upon her she loved her,

Never before had she seen such wonderful beauty and purity,

She made her sit on a bench by the jamb of the fireplace, she cook'd food for her,

She had no work to give her, but she gave her remembrance and fondness.

The red squaw staid all the forenoon, and toward the middle of the afternoon she went away,

O my mother was loth to have her go away,

All the week she thought of her, she watch'd for her many a month,

She remember'd her many a winter and many a summer,

But the red squaw never came nor was heard of there again.
Can we safely assume this author was being derogatory as well?

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Old 4th October 2022, 11:05 AM   #162
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
If you use the archaic meaning of "anon" when reading Shakespeare, you have English speakers from the past to thank for that meaning. (Call that "beholden" if you like.)

If you fail to use the archaic meaning, then you will fail to understand what Shakespeare wrote.
How do you imagine this line of reasoning is applicable to a place-name? Especially one like "Squaw Peak", where whatever intent or context on the part of a random white person who arbitrarily decided on the name at some unknown point in the past is likely lost to time, and irrelevant to the present-day usage at any rate?

It does not matter what it meant at the time the name was chosen. It's just a name now. The name contains a word that is objectionable to people in the present, and because names are arbitrary, we can change it so that problem doesn't exist anymore.
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Old 4th October 2022, 11:15 AM   #163
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Quite a bold claim.

In this passage, the author was making a point against (cross-cultural) male sexism. Do you think he was also being racially derogatory?

Can we safely assume this author was being derogatory as well?

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A red squaw came one breakfast-time
You don't see this as othering? Really?
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Old 4th October 2022, 11:27 AM   #164
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
If you fail to use the archaic meaning, then you will fail to understand what Shakespeare wrote.
This doesn't follow. I don't use thou and thee--they're non-productive grammatical features of the dialect I speak. I know very well what they mean.

And of course you can always read Shakespeare in translation. Plenty of modern modern English translations are available, some of them quite good. Even if you don't speak English at all, you can read Shakespeare. You'll probably have a better understanding of Shakespeare if you do so. Much of his virtue as a writer (particularly the snappy, comedic dialog) is lost when you have to read footnotes to understand what is meant. Explaining the joke is the death of comedy.

Or as Upstart Crow put it: "If you do your research, my stuff is actually really funny."

I mean, how am I to understand what Molière wrote, if I don't happen to speak French, let alone Molière's French? It seems like I have more options than "Learn French, learn the idiosyncrasies of 17th century French, then read Molière." The burden needn't be entirely on me, as the reader.

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It comes down to whether you want to understand what people were really trying to convey.Yes, but I was asking for your understanding of their argument.
I don't see why it should come down to that. If your objective is to communicate clearly, and you want to avoid unintentional offense to that end, you are rationally committed to being just as careful about not unintentionally conveying offense as you are charitable about another's intention to cause offense.

Mandarin is hardly alone in having words that sound quite similar to the n-bomb. Korean has two such words, both very commonly used (roughly speaking "I am" and "you are"). K-Pop bands often change the lyrics of their songs for US audiences to avoid precisely this misunderstanding. Anyone who has ever dealt with people from a different culture is aware of the myriad ways it is possible to unintentionally offend, and will usually strive to avoid them, rather than placing the burden exclusively on the listener.

It seems to me that you think you're being maximally rational with this position, but to me it just looks like you're being irrationally obstinate (completely ignoring the rationalist's commitment to act in a way that brings about desirable outcomes), and are trying to justify this unthinking linguistic conservatism with an etymological fallacy.

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Old 4th October 2022, 11:31 AM   #165
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
You don't see this as othering?
Seeing someone else as other isn't the same as derogating them as inferior.

When I was wandering around Tokyo, there were plenty of reasons to believe that I was "other" than the people I encountered, in terms of language and culture and assumptions about how much technology one needs to understand to maximize satisfaction in the toilet.
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Old 4th October 2022, 11:35 AM   #166
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
I don't use thou and tree--they're non-productive grammatical features of the dialect I speak. I know very well what they mean.
If your mind knows what to do with "thou" and "thee" then you are indeed using those words as a reader of archaic English.

Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
If your objective is to communicate clearly, and you want to avoid unintentional offense, you are rationally committed to being just as careful about not unintentionally suggesting offense as you are charitable about another's intention to cause offense.
This is good advice to keep in mind when writing, but it doesn't excuse taking offense when none was intended.
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Old 4th October 2022, 11:53 AM   #167
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Seeing someone else as other isn't the same as derogating them as inferior.

When I was wandering around Tokyo, there were plenty of reasons to believe that I was "other" than the people I encountered, in terms of language and culture and assumptions about how much technology one needs to understand to maximize satisfaction in the toilet.
It is if you do it after you've subjugated someone's entire race.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:03 PM   #168
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
If your mind knows what to do with "thou" and "thee" then you are indeed using those words as a reader of archaic English.
No. I do not, in fact, use those words. Understanding does not imply use. I understand that English once had a frequentative aspect. I can tell you some of the words that resulted from this extinct grammatical feature. I do not use the frequentative aspect when speaking English. Because it's extinct.

This argument is just unlettered.

Quote:
This is good advice to keep in mind when writing, but it doesn't excuse taking offense when none was intended.
This is not something I particularly need or want to excuse.

The relevant point is that it does justify changing place names that are likely to cause offense.

Which is all I need to show.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:08 PM   #169
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
No. I do not, in fact, use those words. Understanding does not imply use. I understand that English once had a frequentative aspect. I can tell you some of the words that resulted from this extinct grammatical feature. I do not use the frequentative aspect when speaking English.
If you insist on saying that only the speaker or author is "using" the language, that is fine. My point was about understanding how a word was used by someone else, rather than willfully misunderstanding how it was used or recklessly attributing ill intent.

Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
The relevant point is that it does justify changing place names that are likely to cause offense.
I am not persuaded causing offense is enough, in and of itself, to justify changing one's behavior. I offended a cold reader one time, deriding his trade by saying true things about it. As I recall, he told me to "show some respect." This was a power play, an attempt to modify my behavior by claiming to take offense. In this respect, it is much the same as religious norms against blasphemy. Something similar happens when gendercrits insist that it's offensive to call them "cisgender" or when their ideological opponents insist that "transexual" is a slur these days; these are all attempts to exert power over the course of the discussion by putting certain ideas beyond the pale.

Come to think of it "beyond the pale" may be considered taboo as well.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:16 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
If you insist on saying that only the speaker is "using" the language, that is fine.
I do not insist on saying that. You can tell by the way I did not say anything remotely like that. You have a bad habit of substituting a general claim for a specific one.

Quote:
My point was about understanding how a word was used by someone else, rather than willfully misunderstanding or maliciously attributing ill intent.
And my point is that understanding what someone meant 300 years ago is largely irrelevant to understanding what the word means today--to imagine otherwise is to commit a fallacy of relevance. Specifically, the etymological fallacy. The original meaning of a word is not the truer meaning of the word. There's often no need to delve into etymology at all. When I say that this argument is silly, I do not mean that it is innocent. And you don't need to interrogate my meaning to establish this, if you're a pragmatically competent English speaker.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:24 PM   #171
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
It is if you do it after you've subjugated someone's entire race.
I don't know what role Walt Whitman played in that subjugation, but I'm happy to take your word for it.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:25 PM   #172
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Also, if your intention is to communicate effectively, editing your post to say something entirely different after you've already posted it should strike you as a problem.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:28 PM   #173
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
And my point is that understanding what someone meant 300 years ago is largely irrelevant to understanding what the word means today--to imagine otherwise is to commit a fallacy of relevance. Specifically, the etymological fallacy. The original meaning of a word is not the truer meaning of the word.
I have not been arguing that the word must always be taken in the original sense. I am questioning whether it makes sense to default to the assumption that it is invariably a slur, as the DOI has done.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:33 PM   #174
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
I have not been arguing that the word must always be taken in the original sense.
You have done exactly that. You have said that the original sense should be 'controlling', and have given no plausible account for why that should be so.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:40 PM   #175
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
You have said that the original sense should be 'controlling', and have given no plausible account for why that should be so.
I said that "original authorial intent" should be controlling when we interpret various things. This certainly does not imply that any given word must invariably be taken in the original sense, because authors oftentimes aren't using words in their original sense.

We know that the s-word has been used in a neutral descriptive sense and in a derogatory sense (this is true of nearly any word that describes membership in a marginalized group, except those which originated as slurs in the first place) but the argument at hand here is that we must ignore the former sense in favor of the latter one.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:47 PM   #176
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
I said that "original authorial intent" should be controlling when we interpret various things. This certainly does not imply that any given word must invariably be taken in the original sense, because authors oftentimes aren't using words in their original sense.

We know that the s-word has been used in a neutral descriptive sense and in a derogatory sense (this is true of nearly any word that describes membership in a marginalized group, except those which originated as slurs in the first place) but the argument at hand here is that we must ignore the former sense in favor of the latter one.
No it isn’t.
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Old 4th October 2022, 01:04 PM   #177
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
I said that "original authorial intent" should be controlling when we interpret various things. This certainly does not imply that any given word must invariably be taken in the original sense, because authors oftentimes aren't using words in their original sense.
The idea that a place name even has "authorial intent" is peculiar, and the author is dead in more than one sense. Obviously you're talking about the contemporary meaning (which in the case of 'squaw' is, in the best case, also the original meaning); that's still a fallacy of relevance. The relevant meaning is the one it has today.

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We know that the s-word has been used in a neutral descriptive sense and in a derogatory sense (this is true of nearly any word that describes membership in a marginalized group) but the argument at hand here is that we must ignore the former in favor of the latter.
No, the argument at hand is that the former has no bearing on the argument, given its neutrality. If "Jew Pond" contains a word that may or may not be derogatory, the fact that it is sometimes not is not an argument in favor of retaining that place name. It cannot go on either side of the scales. We are left with an argument against retaining the name, and no argument in favor, beyond conservative inertia. It's not like it particularly matters what a place is called, all other things being equal. It's reasonable to change a place name simply because people decide they prefer a different name. You don't need a dissertation to do this stuff, and it isn't a criminal proceeding.
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Old 4th October 2022, 01:34 PM   #178
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As an organisation that must have given this some thought, What3Words uses three words to identify every 3 metre square in the surface of the Earth. Here's their comments on the use of offensive words...

https://support.what3words.com/en/ar...ffensive-words

And then there's one that's taken a different approach.

https://www.fourkingmaps.co.uk/what/
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Old 4th October 2022, 04:05 PM   #179
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
I don't know what role Walt Whitman played in that subjugation, but I'm happy to take your word for it.
Are you being willfully ignorant? Is this some odd attempt at the Socratic method you're trying to pull off here?

Being as the exchange in your cherry picked passage happened on a homestead, what role do you think Whitman as playing in her subjugation.
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Old 4th October 2022, 04:11 PM   #180
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
No it isn’t.
Did you even look at the DOI letter?
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Old 4th October 2022, 04:14 PM   #181
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
No, the argument at hand is that the former has no bearing on the argument, given its neutrality.
Nope. Read the letter.
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Old 4th October 2022, 05:10 PM   #182
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
Being as the exchange in your cherry picked passage happened on a homestead, what role do you think Whitman as playing in her subjugation.
Rather little, given that she arrived freely and left as freely.

ETA: It's weird to level an accusation of cherry picking at someone who takes the trouble to look up how the s-word was used in context, especially given how much text I took the trouble to include.
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Old 4th October 2022, 05:18 PM   #183
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
In this passage, the author was making a point against (cross-cultural) male sexism. Do you think he was also being racially derogatory?
Yes, absolutely.

Just because racism was acceptable and natural in the 1800s doesn't mean that it is now. We can appreciate the art from past generations while still recognising that by today's standards it is racist.
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Old 4th October 2022, 07:53 PM   #184
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Yes, absolutely.
Okay, why?

What makes you think Asimov is saying that one "race" is superior to another here?
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Old 4th October 2022, 08:21 PM   #185
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
ETA: It's weird to level an accusation of cherry picking at someone who takes the trouble to look up how the s-word was used in context, especially given how much text I took the trouble to include.
Not when people already did that to support their opposite stance and you ignored them and dismissed their sources in favor of one you felt was friendlier to yours.
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Old 4th October 2022, 08:24 PM   #186
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A white person using one tribe's root-word for women as a blanket name for all native women continent-wide, with no consideration for its cultural appropriateness in any given context, is casual racism at best, even if it isn't "intended" to be a slur.
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Old 4th October 2022, 08:57 PM   #187
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Nope. Read the letter.
That is not "the argument at hand". It's not an argument at all. It's a declaration.

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Old 4th October 2022, 09:15 PM   #188
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Okay, why?
Already answered:

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Just because racism was acceptable and natural in the 1800s doesn't mean that it is now. We can appreciate the art from past generations while still recognising that by today's standards it is racist.
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Old 4th October 2022, 09:18 PM   #189
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
A white person using one tribe's root-word for women as a blanket name for all native women continent-wide, with no consideration for its cultural appropriateness in any given context, is casual racism at best, even if it isn't "intended" to be a slur.
There was a trend a little while ago of referring to all Australian Aboriginal people as "Koori". Then people who weren't part of Koori Country started to say "er, we're not that". It wasn't intended as an insult. It was intended to be a respectful way of referring to people who have long been referred to using racist epithets, but it ended up being factually inaccurate and therefore inappropriate.
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Old 5th October 2022, 01:51 AM   #190
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Rather little, given that she arrived freely and left as freely.

ETA: It's weird to level an accusation of cherry picking at someone who takes the trouble to look up how the s-word was used in context, especially given how much text I took the trouble to include.
Okay, yeah, you're just being deliberately obtuse. You're just a white person using a slur and hiding behind the tired troupe of "I didn't mean it to be racist so it's not".

As for the highlighted, was this meant to be a joke?
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Old 7th October 2022, 03:57 PM   #191
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Originally Posted by Craig4 View Post
You're just a white person using a slur and hiding behind the tired troupe of "I didn't mean it to be racist so it's not".
If someone didn't mean to imply a certain meaning, then they did not do so. See, e.g. Spook Hill.

ETA: Also, if you're going to keep personalizing going forward, I'm mixed race & Hispanic.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Already answered:
By "this passage" I meant the one quoted from Asimov, not the one from the 1800s. My apologies for the confusion.
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Old 8th October 2022, 03:57 AM   #192
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
If someone didn't mean to imply a certain meaning, then they did not do so. See, e.g. Spook Hill.

ETA: Also, if you're going to keep personalizing going forward, I'm mixed race & Hispanic.

By "this passage" I meant the one quoted from Asimov, not the one from the 1800s. My apologies for the confusion.
And you are again simply falling back to (paraphrased) “because someone made a decision in the past we have to keep to that decision for all eternity”.
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Old 8th October 2022, 05:49 AM   #193
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
And you are again simply falling back to (paraphrased) “because someone made a decision in the past we have to keep to that decision for all eternity”.
Strawperson is, once again, made of straw.

I've been arguing that the DOI should have a better rationale than some people take offense even when none was intended. This is obvious once you realize activists will take (or feign) offense in order to manipulate or shut down discussion about issues they hold dear, e.g. true believers and their norms/laws against blasphemy, intersectional feminists and their norms against deadnaming, etc.
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Old 8th October 2022, 06:59 AM   #194
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
Strawperson is, once again, made of straw.

I've been arguing that the DOI should have a better rationale than some people take offense even when none was intended. This is obvious once you realize activists will take (or feign) offense in order to manipulate or shut down discussion about issues they hold dear, e.g. true believers and their norms/laws against blasphemy, intersectional feminists and their norms against deadnaming, etc.
Nope it isn’t. Your argument is that because when these 600 plus places were named with “squaw” in them we can’t or don’t know today if it was named with a pejorative intent or not therefore we shouldn’t change them. In other words we have to be beholden to decisions made in the past for all eternity no matter what we think about such names today.

You are saying we can’t decide to rename places.
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Old 8th October 2022, 08:51 AM   #195
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They should do a little research into why the "Squaw" name was chosen. Then change the name accordingly. So shouldn't they be changing the names to things like Princess Morning Glory Meadow, First Immigrant Woman Hill, My Wife Peak, Vagina Mountain, Shrew Crossing, Slut Slough, Bitch Creek?
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Old 8th October 2022, 09:44 AM   #196
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Finding the example of Swastika Mountain really helped clarify the issue for me. I had started to write a post using a hypothetical Swastika Mountain as an example, and I did my usual "better Google to make sure this doesn't actually exist" and found that it does actually exist. To me it's obvious that Swastika Mountain should be renamed, because the name had no particular emotional significance to the original namer(s) but has provocative apparent meaning today. But it's not really all that clear. On a strictly rational level, "swastika" is just a word for a configuration of line segments. Even if one can't abide the sight of the configuration of line segments, the word doesn't contain that, it just names it. There's no need to spell it "s*******" in this post, for instance. In fact I can get three steps closer to its emotional significance ("swastika" to the symbol itself to its association with the Nazis to Nazi ideology) and I can still write "Nazi ideology" instead of "that N-I phrase".

But we're not rational about words. We're never rational about words. Even here in the rationalist forum we're not rational about words. No one is rational about words. That's why there are all those hotels and apartments and office buildings in China that lack a "4th" floor because the Chinese word for 4 is similar to the Chinese word for death. If Chinese businessmen won't push an elevator button with a Chinese or Arabic numeral "4" on it, why even try to keep "Squaw Creek" in the face of the pejorative associations of the word*, even if the Algonquian women who once lived there named it proudly after themselves?


*which by the way clearly represent a 24-scoop sundae of misogyny with an anti-indigene cherry on top, but guess what part everyone pays attention to...
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Old 8th October 2022, 12:28 PM   #197
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
If someone didn't mean to imply a certain meaning, then they did not do so. See, e.g. Spook Hill.
If someone who genuinely doesn't intend to imply an offensive meaning is then told their usage was highly offensive inadvertently or not, they accept that newfound knowledge and change their wording; they don't attempt to browbeat the offended people into giving them a license.
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Old 8th October 2022, 12:38 PM   #198
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
I've been arguing that the DOI should have a better rationale than some people take offense even when none was intended.
And we've been arguing that that line of argument is specious; it is, in fact, a perfectly valid rationale for renaming any place, because what someone "intended" 200 years or more ago is not somehow magically more important than what people think now.

It's renaming a mountain. It's not like anyone is proposing digging up the namer's bones and canceling them on social media.

As an aside, I would assert that, while the two may look superficially similar, there is a distinction between someone not intending offense with their word choice and someone who positively doesn't care whether anyone would be offended.
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Old 9th October 2022, 06:36 PM   #199
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
By "this passage" I meant the one quoted from Asimov, not the one from the 1800s. My apologies for the confusion.
Doesn't matter. My statement applies to the 1950s just as much as it does the 1800s.
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Old 10th October 2022, 03:57 PM   #200
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
You are saying we can’t decide to rename places.
No, I'm saying that it's generally bad practice to read in meaning that the speaker didn't intend to convey (e.g. assuming Asimov meant "squaw" as a racial slur) and that the DOI takes a blanket approach to the contrary.

There might be perfectly good reasons to rename places (e.g. local custom) but the argument from the DOI was simply to say that the s-word is comparable to the n-word and must be considered a slur regardless of previous usage or context.
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