Heard on TV

Eric Nielsen ericbarnak at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 6 17:09:37 UTC 2011

I am reminded of the young relativist, Steenie, steering the necomer,
Josh Arnold, through the linguistic minefield of  1940's New Mexico in "Red
Sky at Morning" by Richard Bradford:

   "All right then. We don't want any racial trouble out here. And don't
call him a Negro. He thinks he's an Anglo. We only recognize three kinds of
people in Sagrado: Anglos, Indians and Natives. You keep your categories
straight and you'll make out all right. Do you have anything against your
sister marrying an Anglo?"
   "To tell you the truth, I don't even have a sister."
   "Now, you see that girl over there by the Cottonwood tree? The one with
the knockers?" I saw her. She would have stood out in any crowd. "What would
you say she was?"
   "She looks like a Creole," I said.
   "Arnold, you have a lot of work ahead of you. She's a Native. Her name's
Viola Lopez. She speaks Spanish and English, and she's Catholic. Don't ever
make the mistake of calling her a Mexican. Her brother will kill you. Of
course, if you call her a Creole she'll get confused as hell and think you
mean she's part Negro--that is, part dark-skinned Anglo--and her brother
will kill you again. So, think of her as a Native, unless you're comparing
her with an Indian. Then she's 'white.' Got it?"
   "I think so," I said. "But what about the Negro?"
   "I already explained that to you. He's an Anglo. That is, he's an Anglo
unless you're differentiating between him and an Indian. Then *he's '*white.'
I admit he's awfully dark to be white, but that's the way it is around here.
You have to learn our little customs and folkways, or it's your ass. And if
you've got any Texas blood in you, you'd better take 'spik' and 'greaser'
out of your vocabulary. If there's a minority group at all around here, it's
the Anglos. By the way, do you know any judo? I taught judo to a Commando
class this summer."

"Red Sky at Morning"
Richard Bradford, 1989
Harper Perennial Modern Classics (May 5, 1999)
pp. 36-37


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

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