Christian suggestion

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Nov 8 19:14:14 UTC 1999

On the mostly Hungarian (but with a smattering of Polish, Italian, Russian,
and Lithuanian) street where I grew up in southern Illinois, our reference
to the English-German-Scots-Irish remainder of the town was to the "white"
people (which we borrowed from their self-reference to distinguish
themselves from us, not Blacks).

Arizona is not the only place where Black and White could be classified
together. The Hawaiian use of "haole" (roughly "non-local") carries
"non-white" racial overtones (making it roughly synonymous with "white")
and therefore made it necessary to refer to "Black haoles" (at least when I
was there in the early 80's).

dInIs (proud but onomastically disguised Hunkey)

 >a follow-up on the sociolinguistics of "christian"...
>to those who identify as such, being christian is a highly
>valued identity, hence one not easily extended to people
>who are distant from you in matters of religious practice,
>or for that matter, socially distant from you.  in this
>respect, being christian is a lot like being white, and
>we find the same kind of variation in the use of "white"
>as a descriptor.
>during the past century in the u.s., jews have become
>"white" - and have gotten a kind of honorary christianity
>as well, in references to "judeo-christian" values and
>traditions - but arabs have not (at least not in folk
>usage; the practices of official agencies like the census
>bureau and the eoc are another matter).  in the same
>period, the irish, italians, and spaniards-from/in-spain
>have become "white" (despite their roman catholicism),
>but latinos/hispanics/etc. have not (instead, their
>differentness has been codified in the official terminology
>of race).
>local usages of "white" have shifted in ways similar to
>local usages of "christian".  linda gordon's The Great
>Arizona Orphan Abduction (reviewed by joann wypijewski
>in the most recent Lingua Franca) reports a (to me)
>bewildering variety of racial classifications in the
>arizona of a hundred years ago.  for the purpose of
>expelling the chinese from the mines, mexicans and anglos
>were grouped together.  but then there were "white man's
>camps" - the terminology of the time - which excluded
>chinese, mexicans, southern and eastern europeans, but
>not blacks; wypijewski provides this marvelous piece
>of self-identification from gordon:
>  James Young, a black man at the Contention mine
>  in nearby Tombstone, remarked 'Si White and I were
>  the first white men in Tombstone after Gird and
>  Schieffelin.'
>[note that one thing the residents of the white man's
>camps would have shared was protestant christianity,
>probably a rather narrow range of it; those excluded
>were "wild", "savage", "backward", "heathen", etc.]
>arnold (zwicky at

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list