[Ads-l] Speaking of politically inspired lexicographic shifts

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Mar 8 10:34:48 EST 2017

> On Mar 8, 2017, at 9:25 AM, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
> with a bow to this mailing list, on my blog:
> https://arnoldzwicky.org/2017/03/08/depriving-healthcare-for-millions/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Well, OK, it’s not just the healthcare debate that’s responsible for introducing argument structure variation in “deprive”.  But I wanted to segue to the slaves-as-immigrants flap occasioned by Ben Carson’s reference in his recent remarks characterizing slaves as immigrants who worked particularly hard for particularly low wages. Given the opportunity to “walk back” his remarks a day or two later, he supported his reference with lexicographic evidence, noting that ( "An immigrant is: 'a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country’”. Sure enough, Carson’s definition (apparently from Oxford Dictionaries: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/immigrant) is echoed by the AHD’s entry: "A person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another.”  

Does this extend to enslaved persons and others forced to live or “settle” in another country? Were Jews and gypsies loaded into cattle cars in the 1930s and ‘40s and transported to death camps in Germany immigrants too?  Technically, they did leave France or Holland or wherever and “settled" permanently—if you can excuse the adverb—in another country, but did they leave one country to settle in another? Whether that includes slaves or deportees may depends on what we take the meaning of “to” to be in “to settle..." (purposive/intentional?  resultative?). 

The OED passes the buck to the verb (‘one who or that immigrates’), which in turn is defined as 'To come to settle in a country (which is not one's own); to pass into a new habitat or place of residence (lit. and fig.)’, with the sense of “to” again being crucial.  It’s not clear to me whether any or all of these definitions would at least by implication rule out Secretary Carson’s expansive reading that extends to what he calls “involuntary immigrants” (see e.g. http://thehill.com/homenews/322645-carson-doubles-down-slaves-were-involuntary-immigrants)

Any thoughts?  (Steve Kleinedler at the AHD suggests the possibility of an added Usage Note in subsequent editions, if it’s determined that such a note is necessary.)

At the very least, in “involuntary immigrant” we have an early candidate for euphemism of the year.  


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

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