LINGUIST List 11.807

Sat Apr 8 2000

Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Waldemar Exkul, Re: Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations
  2. James L. Fidelholtz, Re: 11.806, Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations

Message 1: Re: Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations

Date: Sat, 08 Apr 2000 17:48:02 -0400
From: Waldemar Exkul <>
Subject: Re: Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations

Patrick Ryan--

In your recent posting to LinguistList, you write:

"That any member of an organization like the LSA is incapable of
applying English words correctly is obviously surprising."

This comment comes across as a bit impudent, especially in a message
that begins with a sentence like this:

"The proposes of a professional organization are inunitably different
from that of a political action committee."

But I am more concerned by the substance of your comments than by
their form. It is no abuse of the English language to describe as
racist a symbol that perpetuates misleading stereotypes about a race
of people. Furthermore, using a charicature of a people as a mascot is
condescending in a way that suggests the "notion of racial
superiority" that you consider an essential part of the proper meaning
of the term 'racism'. To continue using such a mascot in the face of
objections from the people thus charicatured is, at best, grossly
insensitive and conveys a blithe disregard for Native American culture
and history.

While I do not think "that students are forming academic opinions
about Native Americans from the portrayal of the 'Chief'," I am
concerned about the non-academic view of Native Americans that such
mascots promote. The presence of more reliable sources in the
university library does not justify the dissemination of
misinformation on the football field.

Finally, I am completely bewildered by the following statements from
your message:

"I wonder if the activists promoting such radical agenda realize how
much hostility among non-native Americans is being generated by this
supercilious hypersensitivity. Far from promoting understanding, by
actions such as seeking to 'outlaw' harmless traditional symbols of
group fun such as the 'Chief', such misbegotten iniatives foster
feelings of antagonism and contempt where before there were none."

Your own hostility is certainly evident. As for me, when I am told
that something I thought of as a "harmless symbol of group fun" is for
some people degrading and no fun at all, I react with contrition, not
with antagnism and contempt.

I certainly hope the members of the LSA will maintain their interest
in standing up for the dignity of Native American languages, peoples,
and cultures.

- Wex

Waldemar Exkul

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Message 2: Re: 11.806, Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations

Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 16:13:02 -0500 (CDT)
From: James L. Fidelholtz <>
Subject: Re: 11.806, Disc: Political Action/Linguistic Organizations

Dear All:
	While I strongly disagree with Pat Ryan, his opinion has
obviously been thought about carefully.
	Unfortunately, in this era of Political Correctness, there are
other factors to consider. PC means that most of us are, and we
should all be, overly sensitive to the reactions of others to the way
we phrase things, do things, and to the symbols that we use [NB, Pat,
not just the Sound ones]. I used to resist the blandishments about
nonsexist language use, until I realized that (a) the nonsexists
actually had some linguistic points, and more cogently, some
psychological ones; and (b) completely independently of (a), my
ignoring their points was needlessly pissing off a substantial segment
of people. So I now normally use forms of 'them' [sic] as the neutral
pronoun, even though I'm not from one of those dialect groups. (Of
course, I do still resist 'he/she', but that's on purely aesthetic
	The point I am slowly getting at is that we are treating so
many ethnic, language, color, etc. groups with the kiddest of gloves
that NOT treating some other group the same way, familiar as they may
be, smacks at the very least of superciliousness, and certainly will
look to members of the group like racism (OK, in its current popular
acceptation, but that still makes it racism--ask any sociolinguist).
	I don't doubt that Chief I. will in the medium term become
extinct just so the President, the Board of Regents et al. can move on
to the academic infighting they probably all miss. But if I can do
anything to speed up the process, I'll be happy to, inevitable though
it may be. Why prolong the agony of those who consider this imagery
personally and or culturally insulting?

James L. Fidelholtz			e-mail:
Posgrado en Ciencias del Lenguaje	tel.: +(52-2)229-5500 x5705
Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades	fax: +(01-2) 229-5681
Beneme'rita Universidad Auto'noma de Puebla, ME'XICO
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