diverse = 'ethnically different'

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 19 00:09:16 UTC 2011

On Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 12:29 PM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:

> African-American Congressman on CNN just now: "China may be diverse compared
> to us...."

There's been at least one occasion, IME, when I've found Jon's
reliance upon his own intuitions WRT black speech to be utterly
lacking. But, here, IMO, Jon is entirely correct in his intuition that
the Congressman is using _diverse_ to mean "ethnically different" -
though "racially different" is probably better - in the sense of "not
a nation composed of white people or ruled by people of European
descent and having a large minority made up of people of known,
admitted, or claimed sub-Saharan-African descent." If any random black
American who is not a scholar of Sinica has any idea that all of the
"Orientals" in the Far East aren't "Chinese" sensu stricto - and that
includes the Japanese - I'd be very much surprised.

If you tried to explain that, strictu senso, China is *not* "diverse,"
compared to "us," to the extent that one group of people, called
_Han_, rule over a number of non-Han minorities, such as the Tibetans,
the Uighurs, the Mongols, the Manchus ("Manchus!?" Whuh chu tawm
'bout, Wilson? Fu *Manchu* is the *quintessential* Chinaman! And how
are these so-called "Mongols" supposed to be "different," when they
*all* belong to the *Mongoloid* race! Just like *we* - from Jennifers
Beals and Lopez, Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul, Eddie Murphy, Charlies
Patton and Murphy, Thurgood Marshall, Johnny Otis, Johnny "Guitar"
Watson, Johnny Mathis, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Rae Dawn Chong,
Patrick Chung, Tai Babilonia, etc. all be *Negroid*! Except when The
Man goes into divide-and-rule mode, of course.)

I once had a surprisingly-frustrating argument with a lawyer-friend -
JD, Wash U in St. Louis. He wondered how it was that a Filipino
gardener came to be fluent in Spanish and to be named "Ricardo." I was
surprised that anyone could be so unaware of just the history of the
American Empire, let alone that of the world, that he would find this
surprising. IAC, he absolutely refused to accept my explanation,
despite his agreeing with me that the U.S. had acquired The
Philippines from Spain and that anyone whose native language is
Spanish or who speaks with what is regarded by us blacks - or should
that be, "by *we* blacks"? - as a "Spanish" accent, regardless of any
other factor, is "Spanish." As far as my buddy was concerned, the
gardener was "Chinese."

OTOH, I recall that, when a Chicano prof of Spanish remarked to a
Filipino class-member that she undoubtedly was already fluent in
Spanish and was, therefore, aiming for an easy A, she replied, in
effect, that she didn't know Spanish any more than any other random
American without a Spanish accent would. (The subject came up as a
result of the prof's telling the class to respond in Spanish to the
question, "De donde esta usted?", to which she had answered, "Estoy de
las Islas filipinas."

I had assumed that this woman was black. That's not unusual, I guess.
At Widener, a white student said to me that she had been referred to
me "by a pretty black woman at the circ desk." Said "black woman" is a

Not every Filipino is Sinoid in appearance, needless to say.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

Once that we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity,
or evil intent, we can uncumber ourselves of the impossible burden of
trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition
that we could be in error, without necessarily deeming ourselves
idiotic or unworthy.
–Kathryn Schulz

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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