ELL: Re: 'Reburial of 500 Huron'...
garyi at HALCYON.COM
Wed Dec 8 08:34:21 UTC 1999
It seemed clear to me that the usage "500 Huron" (and use of similar
constructions without the definite article) was indeed an instance of
de-humanization; then the French, British, Swiss, etc examples came to
mind, but didn't appear to have the same semantic content; and I
abandoned the thought process in favor of more pressing (though perhaps
not more important) business.
However, this still seems to me to be a slippery analysis -- I have no
trouble with a statement about shooting 20 raccoon, but "shooting 20
tiger" seems unlikely, that is to say, forced (by parallel to the
raccoon construction) but not natural to my native languge. However, I
can imagine a hunter going "out after tiger." But then, I can imagine
(at least grammatically) going "out after Mongol" but "shooting 20
Mongol" also sounds unnatural. What exactly is going on here? Do I
speak a strange dialect of English not shared by the rest of you? Is
there a spread from the jargon of English-speaking hunters & trappers
to the language generally, and is it peculiarly North American? I'm
The reason I keep on like this is precisely that the phrase "500 Huron"
does indeed carry, to MY ears, the connotation of game animal -- in
free association I am reminded of my older cousins going "out after
cottontail" when I was small. This has been true whenever I have read
accounts of North American natives. In other words, regardless of who
else has used it and what they meant by it, in my own dialect of
English the de-humanizing connotation is definitely present, and I
conclude that it must be so to at least some others.
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