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February 1, 2013 4:09 AM   Subscribe

No matter how interesting I find the topic, I find the title of this thread incredibly problematic---is it just because i am canadian?
posted by PinkMoose to Etiquette/Policy at 4:09 AM (167 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

You mean the link, not the title, right? Eskimo versus First Nation/Inuit?
posted by Burhanistan at 4:15 AM on February 1, 2013


Can you be specific about the problem? I think I can probably guess, but it might be more efficient for everyone if you explained.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:16 AM on February 1, 2013


I do! Not sure what to do, because in many ways it's legitimate, because of the article, but still, i am not sure i want to see the language on the front page
posted by PinkMoose at 4:16 AM on February 1, 2013


Could we change it to inuit, or arctic aborginals or something that doesn't feature the word in question
posted by PinkMoose at 4:17 AM on February 1, 2013


Do we need another slur thread? The other one on the MeTa front page is still open.
posted by knile at 4:28 AM on February 1, 2013


Yeah, that word is deprecated.
posted by scruss at 4:38 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could we change it to inuit, or arctic aborginals or something that doesn't feature the word in question


I don't think that makes any sense, since the myth being referred to (and debunked in the block text in the more inside) uses Eskimo. But of course, I'm one who thinks that if you we're making a post about a literary review article entitled, say, "the symbolic use of the word nigger in the 19th century European novel" it should be done without asterisk or euphemism.
posted by Diablevert at 4:42 AM on February 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


We don't edit people's posts (except to add the odd "NSFW" or fix a typo), and generally our feeling is that if it's hate language, or using racist, sexist, etc., language it will probably be deleted. If it's something that may be considered offensive but it's unclear or not necessarily something that most people know about, this is usually made clear in the comments, and that information can be helpful for others.

In this case, I'm not sure what the central Alaskan Yupik people themselves prefer. I've read (here on Mefi... somewhere) that feelings are different among different groups, and I am seeing some things like yupik.com that is titled "A Yup'ik Eskimo Resource on the Web,"and this Reddit AMA that asks "You identified yourself as Eskimo, but I know that there are some who believe "Eskimo" is a racial slur and prefer "Inuit." What's the deal with this?" where the person identifying as Yupik says, "I am a Yup'ik, which is a type of Eskimo. I am not Inuit."

This doesn't mean that I'm defending the word in this context as non-offensive, though, because I have no knowledge at all about it.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:46 AM on February 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


In my understanding "Eskimo" is often used in Alaska by the Yup'ik (and possibly other groups?) to refer to themselves, while not that far across the border in Yukon the term Eskimo is a slur or at least outdated and Inuit is the catchall term for the various bands (such as the Gwich'in) which they use to refer to themselves.

I'm not sure how "Inuit" plays among the Alaskan groups, but I bet it's not great.

There's no good answer here - I completely agree with PinkMoose that seeing the word Eskimo in relation to northern aboriginal people is jarring and makes me hesitate to trust it, but it's only a linguistic quirk and difference between Canada/US.

I've done some research on Yukon governance and aboriginal issues, so this comes up a lot.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:56 AM on February 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


From the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks:
Inuit or Eskimo: Which name to use?
posted by D.C. at 4:58 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know about the Yupik, and I know it's jarring, and I am asking questions mostly about policy at this point.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:02 AM on February 1, 2013


What policy would bar the word eskimo from the front page? It is an article about the Yupik and they seem fine with that term. Why should they be called Inuit when that's not a term they use or a word in their language. Canadian and US terminology for native peoples differs, but I don't see why those differences should be a basis for a policy only allowing those words consdered acceptable in Canada.
posted by Area Man at 5:08 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can we use Yupik, which seems to be a better term than?
posted by PinkMoose at 5:17 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our policy would not be to delete a post (since we don't edit, it would need to be a delete) that uses a word that the people who are featured in the link use to describe themselves in ethnic terms, no. (Please note that I am not talking about, say, lyrics in Hip Hop music etc., about which some people are all "they call each other that, so why can't weeeeee?" blah blah).

It can be useful to discuss the fact that North American First Nations people are not an homogeneous all-alike group who all want to be identified the same way, and that among some groups the word "Eskimo" is considered offensive and racist. This sort of helps everybody get a better handle on the issue.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:18 AM on February 1, 2013



The first link explains why they chose to use the word Eskimo over a word like Inuit.

While the term Inuit is preferred to Eskimo by many in Canada, the term is retained
here because (a) it properly refers to any Eskimo group, not only the
Inuit; and (b) its use is widespread in Native communities in Alaska.)

posted by inturnaround at 5:25 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yupik is specific to a particular people/tribe/group, but the post is not.
posted by rtha at 5:58 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


From personal experience, within the Canadian Arctic First Nations, the word is much like the US usage of "nigger". It's considered:

a) wrong---there are many ethic groups who feel it doesn't even apply to them, like the Dene or the Cree who don't like to be lumped in with the Inuit, and

b) a marker and reminder of a colonial past the consequences of which those communities continue to deal with.

Publicly, or officially, it's really, really rude. In common speech, it happens and people may wince, especially if the speaker is white. Inu may choose to use it themselves to recalim the word. In short, it's complicated.
posted by bonehead at 6:03 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first link explains why they chose to use the word Eskimo over a word like Inuit.

Frankly I don't really like their reasoning. It's saying that the Inuit are an Eskimo group (not just linguistically, even though the article is about language)- it's American-centric and ignores the real and vocalized problems that some of the Inuit communities have with being referred to as Eskimos.

That being said, there just isn't a good term to talk about aboriginal/native groups in northwestern North America. The two main terms in use are mutually problematic.

The answer is to either use a weird kludgy set of words (like "aboriginal/native groups in northwestern North America") or to clarify your meaning in context. Talking about Alaska? Probably use Eskimo. Talking about Canada? Probably use Inuit. Talking about both? Eskimo/Inuit could work.

The article is specifically put out by the Alaska Native Language Centre and focuses on the Yupik (also was written in 91, before some of these debates had happened). Seems correct to say Eskimo.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:08 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


spitbull has some good explanations in the thread about the use/misuse of "Eskimo" and its contexts.
posted by rtha at 6:11 AM on February 1, 2013


Knowing, as I do, many people affiliated with ANLC, most of whom are Native Alaskan elders, allow me to say that the idea that Prof Kaplan and company would use a racial slur that MeFites would catch for the first time (AHA! RACISM!) is ridiculous, and reflective of the weird mix of ignorance and PC knowitallness that characterizes so much discussion of Native American/First Nations cultures and peoples on Metafilter.

Much of what is being said here and in the original thread is a lot more racist in tone and implication.
posted by spitbull at 6:12 AM on February 1, 2013 [32 favorites]


The main thing I'm seeing here spitbull, is a big divide between what's in use in the Canadian North and Alaska. I'll tell you, I was more than a bit surprised when the first time I heard a Yupik elder refer to himself as an Eskimo.
posted by bonehead at 6:20 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: weird mix of ignorance and PC knowitallness
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:33 AM on February 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


Let's just stay away from American Indian vs. Native American vs. First Nations, at least for today.

I will say, I'm not seeing the racism in this thread. There really are different varying standards as to what is and is not considered derogatory in different countries, and it can be shocking to come across the casual use of a term that you think of as offensive. It reminded me a little of some British MeFites who were surprised to hear that "cracker" is used as a derogatory term in the U.S.
posted by Area Man at 6:40 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I give up
posted by hellojed at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It reminds me too how the word "spaz" is received in the UK versus the US.

The thing is that it's not universally accepted. It's also not universally rejected. It, like many things in this world, is messy.
posted by inturnaround at 7:33 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somewhat related, but I went out for dinner tonight.
Long story short, I ordered a beef malabari (it was Indian, northern I think), a dish I had not had before and does not IIRC exist in my cookbooks.
Thinking it tasted more towards Nepalese food than I am used to I hit the Googles.
Turns out malabari is a racial slur.

Also, Eskimo is a slur now? I thought it was largely interchangable with Inuit, with Inuit preferred. But I do live on the opposite side of the globe, where one can still buy Eskimo Pies and the (delicious) Redskin lollies (yes, as far as I know there are American Indians on the wrappers).
But the Redskin Split icecream hasn't been sold since the 1980s (they are called splits now).

Language is hard. It's a minefield. My brain hurts.
posted by Mezentian at 7:41 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find the title of this thread incredibly problematic

I am too incredulous to credit your problem because it is too incredibly incredible for credulity.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:44 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The use of Eskimo raised my hackles too, but then I clicked through and then I remembered the last time I came across its usage, which was when Sarah Palin was The Worst Thing That Could Ever Possibly Happen and I learned that Eskimo isn't always a pejorative, particularly in regards to Native people in Alaska.

So there is one good and lasting thing that came out of the candidacy of Sarah Palin.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always understood the word to be offensive.
It helps that they qualify and explain their choice.


Knowing, as I do, many people affiliated with ANLC, most of whom are Native Alaskan elders, allow me to say that the idea that Prof Kaplan and company would use a racial slur that MeFites would catch for the first time (AHA! RACISM!) is ridiculous, and reflective of the weird mix of ignorance and PC knowitallness that characterizes so much discussion of Native American/First Nations cultures and peoples on Metafilter.

Much of what is being said here and in the original thread is a lot more racist in tone and implication.
posted by spitbull at 6:12 AM on February 1 [7 favorites +]


There's nothing wrong with wanting to foster a safe environment without racial slurs on the front page -- a lot of us have grown up in a culture where Eskimo is considered to be offensive. I'm not sure where the profit is in condemning people for trying to be sensitive and respectful. Of course you're right that there are a lot of different aboriginal groups in North America, and a lot of different individuals in those groups, and their tolerance and preferences will vary, sure. Which is at least as much a condemnation of casual use of the term Eskimo as it is a defense of it.

Canada and America have different demographics, and it moves the borders of our racism and cultural (in)sensitivity around. We should probably try to be sensitive to that instead of racing to see who can be the most superior.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:56 AM on February 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


One of my ex's current-edition, graduate-level social work counseling textbooks straight-up dropped the "Eskimo have over 50 words for snow" meme the other day, with no indication of irony or any hint that the word "Eskimo" might be a slur or that the meme itself might be a weird racist myth only tangentially related to reality. It was just like "since snow is a major element in Eskimos' daily lives, they have over 50 words for snow." In a current-edition, graduate-level counseling textbook.

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after that one.
posted by Scientist at 8:03 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have the impression this situation is similar to a certain c*** word in US vs. British English that has caused some furor here in the past, except that the contrast here is even sharper. From what I understand within canada, the word has an incredibly charged meaning, i.e. is widely perceived as racist, used in racist ways, etc. Outside (in Alaska at least), it is perfectly normal, perceived as entirely non-racist, and people use it to refer to their own population even in things like official documents and so on.

It's very hard to see what to do in a situation like this, especially since the myth in question is not exclusive to Canada. Otherwise, there aren't many great cover terms for the set of languages/peoples in question. Inuit by itself just isn't correct, as this doesn't cover the whole group. If you really want to be neutral it starts to get like "Inuit-Yupik languages".

One thing to keep in mind is that the racist meaning of a term is to some extent a social construct. That _does not_ mean it isn't real, and I don't say that to try to diminish it in any sense. But what I do mean to point out is that whether a term is racially charged (or just prejudiced/offensive in some sense) may vary arbitrarily from culture to culture despite a shared language, and here is a case where it varies quite sharply. So people outside the culture have to be aware that this is a possibility, and speakers inside the culture have to be aware that their reaction is not going to be shared.
posted by advil at 8:08 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seeing 'Eskimo' on the front page was also really jarring to me, too (because I'm Canadian but whatever). I figured there was some context for using that word because Metafilter tends to have pretty smart, relatively sensitive people. But, I don't know, I'm disappointed that it's there.

Wasn't there another way to get people to read the post without using a problematic word even if it's only problematic to a subset of people including many who are (incorrectly maybe) associated with the myth?
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2013


I was just looking a the Wiki page for Eskimo, and it seems like there is a massive disconnect between the offensiveness in Canada and the US, and the rest of the world.

Considering I like in a place where (as mentioned above) I believe the Eskimo Pie is still an ice cream you can buy, but maybe this is a case where any offense denoted by the word "Eskimo" hasn't translated that far outside Canada?

(I assume Advil's c*** word is "coon", which is a kind of cheese you can buy in Australia, apparently named after a Dr Coon, who may or may not have existed.)
posted by Mezentian at 8:14 AM on February 1, 2013


Mezentian, advil almost certainly meant "cunt," which is Bad Word #1 here in the U.S. "Coon," while also problematic, is pretty much archaic in its offensive sense and pretty much only used to refer to cats now.
posted by psoas at 8:18 AM on February 1, 2013


I assume Advil's c*** word is "coon"

It's probably 'cunt', which has different usage in America and the UK

Wasn't there another way to get people to read the post without using a problematic word even if it's only problematic to a subset of people including many who are (incorrectly maybe) associated with the myth?

You can't please everyone, so as subset it helps to not see everything through your own filter, the title of the article has the word and it pokes holes in a common stereotype.

This seems like a minor issue, with people being overly sensitive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:18 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who is into linguistics but not really at all up on First Nations stuff in any kind of detail, I want to sort of emphasize how much the "eskimos have 100 words for snow" thing is a fixed phrase even unto a runaway meme in stupid pseudo-linguistics email-forward land. Like it is a really, really stupidly well-established unit that is used constantly by people who otherwise would never have any reason to think about or mention arctic aboriginals or address any of the weird cultural baggage tied in with their blithe referential assertion about vocabulary.

Which is part of what makes this complicated, because however problematic the use of "eskimo" is in some contexts, there's really no equally clear way to reference the dumb words-for-snow thing than with that fixed phrase, and loading up the whole thing with more oddness is the fact that most folks wanting to refer to the phenomenon of that dumb meme as a whole (rather than just quote it as a Neat Bit Of Trivia) are doing so critically. So you have folks inadvertently using a hot-button-for-some word in a fixed phrase to critically deride both the phrase itself and the use of it by people who are themselves being either cluelessly or a little bit actively racist or dismissive of the peoples involved.

It's a clusterfuck.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:18 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I assume Advil's c*** word is "coon"

It's probably 'cunt', which has different usage in America and the UK


Yeah, sorry to be unclear -- there have been multiple 500+ comment threads on this topic: 1 2 among others
posted by advil at 8:23 AM on February 1, 2013


I've always assumed that 'cunt' was the taboo word to end taboos, despite the fact that almost everyone says it. And that the shock in polite discourse was similar in the US, UK and AU.


I say again: language is hard.
posted by Mezentian at 8:24 AM on February 1, 2013


In their own words (short pdf):
Whereas the term “Eskimo” is not an Inuit term, and is not one that Inuit have themselves adopted;

[...]

Let it therefore be resolved that the research, science, and other communities be called upon to use the term “Inuit”, instead of “Eskimo” and “paleo-Inuit” instead of “paleo-Eskimo” in the publications of research findings and other documents.
That's from the pan-Arctic Inuit Circumpolar Council. The declaration was made in 2010, well after the publication of the article in question, but there should be no question how the Inuit want to be addressed now.
posted by bonehead at 8:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dated an English guy once who like to call people cunts and then feign ignorance about the different meanings. Yeah, he was kind of a cunt.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:28 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds more like a dick.

Possibly just an asshole.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


PinkMoose: “Could we change it to inuit, or arctic aborginals or something that doesn't feature the word in question”

bonehead: “That's from the pan-Arctic Inuit Circumpolar Council. The declaration was made in 2010, well after the publication of the article in question, but there should be no question how the Inuit want to be addressed now.”

This got covered a bit above, but please note that we are not talking about the Inuit. The Yupik Peoples are a related but distinct group, separate from the Inuit. The Yupik may have their own ideas about what they'd like to be called, but I doubt one of their preferred terms is "Inuit," the term for an entirely separate group.
posted by koeselitz at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


At this point I say we go with what Gygax would have called them:
Snow People. Giant Snow Brownies.
posted by Mezentian at 8:36 AM on February 1, 2013


Yeah, as another Canadian, this word is seriously jarring to see unironically (though ironic uses of it still suck). And while I'm not particularly advocating for the deletion or the revision of a post that (to my mind) was made in good faith, I think it's kind of shitty of people to come in here and tell PinkMoose he's overreacting or being too PC or whatever. Canada is still a distinct country with its own culture, linguistic quirks, and politics; there's no sense in dismissing PinkMoose's concerns just because "it's okay in the US". We've had conversations about "cunt" in the UK vs. the US, and "spaz" in UK vs. the US. Keep using whatever words you want, but there's a not insignificant contingent of Canadian MeFites on the site, and it doesn't hurt to be aware of how you're coming off.
posted by Phire at 8:39 AM on February 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


You can slice the issue finely if you want, but that doesn't change the fact that, a lot of people, aboriginal or not, have pretty visceral reactions to the word "eskimo". It's been used and misused in many ways, and that's why this is such an issue. It may be less of a problem in Alaska or the rest of the US, but that doesn't change the fact that it has lots of problems in Canada.
posted by bonehead at 8:40 AM on February 1, 2013


Is there a list of words that are offensive to certain groups? Because this thread is the way I found out that "Eskimo" was offensive. And another mefi thread was how I learned that "Gypsy" was also offensive. And that's sorta a bad way to find these things out and I'd rather educate myself on the matter to the best of my abilities, rather than learn "Oh shit that word I've might have used for a while actually really offends people and I had no idea".
posted by hellojed at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


It may be less of a problem in Alaska or the rest of the US,
Or the rest of the world.

Honestly, I am shocked at the level of shock this is causing up north. I had an inkling, but no idea.
Eskimo Pie.
Eskimo Joe.

I think there's a long, long road ahead if you want to stop non-North Americans from using a term that is so entrenched into popular culture. (As hellojed points out: gypsy is proving hard to dislodge as well. The terms have come to represent so much more than a group of people)
posted by Mezentian at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2013


I guess it's probably best to talk about solutions now, since it's pretty well established that the word is offensive to a lot of people.

Probably the easiest solution would have been for aniola (the poster in question here) to give consent to have the post text changed to "Yupik." It would still be nice if that happened. However, I feel like we should note that about an hour after making the post, aniola seems to have realized from the comments that the word is quite offensive to some, because they posted this question about what to call a word "that has more-or-less stopped being politically correct."

In other words, I think aniola (who appears to be in a country that would preclude them being awake right now, unless I miss my guess) is aware of the issue.

Personally, I'd vote for a deletion with a "maybe repost without that word" option, since aniola already understands that using it was a misstep.
posted by koeselitz at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2013


> But I do live on the opposite side of the globe, where one can still buy Eskimo Pies

Is that current? I know there was a buyout of the name a few years ago, so Nestle owns the rights now. I don't think I've seen one available in my corner of the US for quite awhile (although Klondike bars are still going strong and are arguably creamier and tastier). Does the wrapper still have the same caricature on it?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 AM on February 1, 2013


Mezentian: “I think there's a long, long road ahead if you want to stop non-North Americans from using a term that is so entrenched into popular culture.”

Indeed. The sooner we get started down that road, the better.
posted by koeselitz at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Referring to the Yupiks as Inuit is like referring to Cherokees as Apache. It's not something that should be done.

Whether the Yupiks wish to be included as a set of people within a group of peoples termed "Eskimo" is up to them.

The Inuit clearly do not want to be referred to as "Eskimo." Yupiks may have a more difficult relationship with the term "Eskimo," or it may be they disagree with the Inuit on its use.

Either way, the Yupiks and the Inuits are not the same, and I think referring to the Yupiks as Inuits could be, in some ways, even more offensive than the term in question.
posted by zizzle at 8:51 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


And it seems that Nestle Australia has pulled it off their site.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:51 AM on February 1, 2013


It's still my favorite Residents' album, and now I'm feeling kinda bad about that.
posted by malocchio at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2013


Ah, it seems a Nestle subsidiary still sells Eskimo Pies in the US?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:56 AM on February 1, 2013


I think this issue isn't being characterized entirely correctly in the last so many comments. It isn't just that the word Eskimo is offensive in Canada and not offensive in Alaska, but rather that the Yupik actually refer to themselves as Eskimos. Given that, I don't think deletion is warranted and would be problematic. The Yupik and other Alaska Natives get to decide what they should be called, and the rest of us should respect those decisions, even if the effect is jarring for Canadians.

This would be like me telling the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that they shouldn't use the word "Sioux" in the name of their nation. It isn't my place to say whether they use Sioux, Dakota, or something else entirely. I'll just follow their lead. Anything else is bad manners.
posted by Area Man at 8:56 AM on February 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't get why we're even discussing this. It's the name of the article. It's not like aniola (who posted it) picked an except with that word specifically in it, or is paraphrasing, or adding their own verbiage. They're simply stating the title of the article. If you have a problem with that word being used as the title of the article, then go contact Anthony C. Woodbury at the University of Texas at Austin.
I mean, whats the other alternative? Calling the post
"Counting (potentially offensive adjective for Yup'ik peoples') words for snow: A citizen's guide"
Or, basically what diablevert said.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess it's probably best to talk about solutions now, since it's pretty well established that the word is offensive to a lot of people.

But not to the people it's referring to in this case. I'm an Indian; my parents were born in India. I don't find it offensive when people call me this, but I can see that a Native American may. Should we not use the word Indian to describe people from India on the front page of Metafilter?
posted by bluefly at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Does revising the post title make any sense? The myth is about "Eskimo" words for snow, not Yupik ones, and the choice of "Eskimo" is a part of the myth's racist baggage that, if anything, needs to be confronted rather than simply erased.
posted by Pyry at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure where the profit is in condemning people for trying to be sensitive and respectful.

Well, when they end up condemning a term that an ethnic group seems to use for itself, and not in a "black people calling each other nigga" sense, that's not great.

In a lighter but still pretty eye-rolling example, the American press commonly calls non-US athletes who are black "African-American." Sometimes, this understandably perturbs the people being interviewed, since they're not American. Should we refuse to call black people who are American "African-Americans" if black people who are French or British or Kenyan generally don't want to be called that?

If it bothers you to see an ethnic group referred to in a way that it seems to prefer, I'd suggest that the problem lies with you, but that's not precisely what's going on here.

I mean, on the one hand the article is only about the Yupik language, not the language of any Inuit nation, band, or tribe, and the Yupik by all accounts tend to either not object to "Eskimo" or prefer it to "Inuit." On the other hand, the article is also using "Eskimo" to refer collectively to all polar aboriginal peoples, including Canadian Inuits who might well disapprove.

I suppose we could say that we ought to write in international-English here instead of American English, but to the extent that international English says that we shouldn't refer to some peoples in the ways they prefer, that's problematic too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:58 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I was not saying that the people in question in the article, the Yupik, should be referred to as Inuit.

I was trying to point out, that a large population, the Inuit who get most of it, and generally all the Arctic aboriginal groups who have been termed "eskimos", would really prefer not to be called that. This, to the point that even usage of the word "eskimo" is considered rude and was thus jarring to see on the front page.
posted by bonehead at 9:02 AM on February 1, 2013


I saw Eskimo Pies in NZ two years ago. I am pretty sure I purchased one, but can't say for sure about the wrapper. I doubt there was a 'lil furry-headed dude on the wrapper, but I wouldn't notice. They were still featuring the '70s style in 2009, and if you pressed me I'd say that looks familiar enough that I am sure when snaffled one recently that was the wrapper.

As koeselitz, it probably won't last. These things resonate, and Maori are pretty hard-ass about these things (they have a treaty), and the First Nations of Canada seem to be good about international relations) so if it hasn't died since 2009 it will soon.

Burhanistan, I can't say I have ever seen an Eskimo Pie in my neck of the woods. in Australia.
And while the info has been pulled off the website, it shows up in DuckDuckRun suggesting the removal is recent.

Also, oddly, Zombo.
posted by Mezentian at 9:03 AM on February 1, 2013


there should be no question how the Inuit want to be addressed now.

Except, as many have pointed out, the article is not exclusively about the Inuit. "Inuit" and "Eskimo" are not interchangeable terms--there are non-Inuit Eskimo peoples. So you can't simply strike the word "Eskimo" and replace it with the word "Inuit" and still be making sense.

This whole issue is an interesting one to me because so far as I'm aware "Eskimo" was never a pejorative in English-language usage. "Eskimo" was as neutral a descriptor as "German" or "Maasai" or "Maori." People no doubt had many racist opinions about the people they designated with that term, but if you wanted to insult an "Eskimo" person--in English--you'd have to call them a "filthy Eskimo" or some such--the word itself was not freighted with any particular praise or blame (unlike, say, "nigger," or "Polack," or "Hun" or what have you).

So far as I'm aware, the rejection of the word "Eskimo" by the Inuit people came about because of a widespread misunderstanding about the etymology of the word (the same thing that happened among Native American peoples more broadly with the word "squaw"). Once the meme spread it became self-enforcing; that is, once you were told that "Eskimo" was a Bad Word and that you should really use the word "Inuit" instead (which became the norm in Canada because all the Canadian Eskimo peoples are Inuit) then the choice of the word "Eskimo" became marked--non-Inuit Canadians who wanted to demonstrate their sensitivity would patrol uses of the word and, for the first time, the word itself would take on a pejorative connotation in English among those who insisted on sticking to it when they knew they "shouldn't."

I don't know that this weird and tangled history tells us much about how to "solve" this problem. Certainly if you're a non-Canadian who grew up using the word "Eskimo" as an entirely neutral descriptor it's very weird to be suddenly told that you're using a horrible racial slur (it's as if you were suddenly told that "Canadian" meant "person who sodomizes pigs" and that it's appalling you weren't aware of that). On the other hand, the Inuit obviously have every right to choose what word gets used to describe them--even if their objection to "Eskimo" is based on a false etymology. But what word, then, do we use for all the "Eskimo" peoples? Do the Inuit get a veto on the use of the term in that inclusive sense? How do we generalize that rule? Do Americans get a veto on the terms that non-Americans use for them? What if their objections are based on etymological misunderstandings? Does that change the picture?
posted by yoink at 9:03 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


And it seems that Nestle Australia has pulled it off their site.

Still used somewhat in popular culture and a Canadian telling New Zealand that the term was racist was met with a frosty reception. Not sure if it's still available in the US, this Walmart listing is inconclusive.

I'm not sure where the profit is in condemning people for trying to be sensitive and respectful.

Nice idea in theory and generally in reality, but it's it can be wielded as low bar club at times. People are offended or hurt by all sorts of things and saying their being hurt means that get to dictate what's said is problematic as zero tolerance rule.

The work Eskimo is offensive to some people. To others not. To unilaterally demand that the word be removed and not said assumes one particular viewpoint is correct, when that's not the case in this particular example.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found a reference to the Eskimo Pie at Drumstick.com(?) dated July 2012.
So, it's at least that recent.
Maybe they retired it on the QT.
But I doubt it.
posted by Mezentian at 9:08 AM on February 1, 2013


Area Man: “It isn't just that the word Eskimo is offensive in Canada and not offensive in Alaska, but rather that the Yupik actually refer to themselves as Eskimos. Given that, I don't think deletion is warranted and would be problematic. The Yupik and other Alaska Natives get to decide what they should be called, and the rest of us should respect those decisions, even if the effect is jarring for Canadians.”

I actually don't think that that has been established. Has anybody offered good evidence that the Yupik have affirmatively referred to themselves as "Eskimos"?

FirstMateKate: “I don't get why we're even discussing this. It's the name of the article. It's not like aniola (who posted it) picked an except with that word specifically in it, or is paraphrasing, or adding their own verbiage. They're simply stating the title of the article. If you have a problem with that word being used as the title of the article, then go contact Anthony C. Woodbury at the University of Texas at Austin.”

If the name of an article has a racial slur in it, then the Metafilter policy is generally to either delete the post or ask that the title of the post be changed. Do you really have a problem with this policy? It seems like a good one to me.

“I mean, whats the other alternative? Calling the post ‘Counting (potentially offensive adjective for Yup'ik peoples') words for snow: A citizen's guide’”

No. The alternative is calling the post "Counting Yupik words for snow: A citizen's guide." That is a very simple and straightforward title for a post, particularly considering that the first line of the article mentions the Yupik by name anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 9:10 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


What I think is probably the best advice on this:

a) Avoid saying "Eskimo" because it pisses off Canadians, including Inuit.

b) Realize that this term isn't considered offensive in Alaska. So keep in mind that when people in the US use this term they are probably not expressing racism against the Inuit.

c) Please understand that "Eskimo" refers to a number of different ethnic groups who speak a group of related languages. There is never a problem with actually using the correct ethnic designation for the people you're talking about, eg. Inuit, Yup'ik, Aleut.

d) There is no politically correct substitute term for the "Eskimoan language family", and it's not considered offensive. (This kind of parallels "retardation" being used being used as clinical term in psychiatry, while the slang terms "tard" and "retard" are insults.)

e) Read spitbull's comment in the "words for snow" thread here. (Keep in mid that spitbull is an anthropologist who's lived in Alaska and speaks Iñupiaq, one of the languages in question.)

I don't think the post should be deleted, because I'm pretty sure neither the OP or the author of the article intended to express any kind of racist sentiments against the Inuit, and given that trope "the Eskimo have [insert made-up number] words for snow" is almost always given in this form, it would have been hard to phrase without using the word (though it could have been rephrased to use quotes.) One of the problems with the trope, beyond being insulting in Canada, is that it assumes there a single language called "Eskimo". The article linked to actually addresses both these issues.

a) and b) might seem contradictory, but my point is that this is an international website, so it's a good idea to try to be aware of terms that are regionally offensive and avoid using them, but it's also a good idea to give people some benefit of the doubt and realize that not everyone is going to be aware that some terms are regionally offensive. So, it's good if Americans realize this term is offensive in Canada and try to avoid using it. But it would also be good if Canadians could realize that this term is not universally offensive, and point out that the term is offensive in Canada if you notice someone using it, and maybe accept "sorry, I didn't know that" as reply, rather than insisting that the person using it a racist bigot and should be banned from the site, especially if the usage doesn't seem to have been intentionally offensive. And basically the same thing applies in similar situations.

(This discussion has been a lot more charitable than some similar discussions on MeTa in the past, fortunately.)
posted by nangar at 9:11 AM on February 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


No. The alternative is calling the post "Counting Yupik words for snow: A citizen's guide."

Until tonight I had never even heard of the Yupik. The title would have been meaningless to me, for example.
posted by Mezentian at 9:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, when did objections to "Eskimo" as a pejorative term first appear? Does anyone know?
posted by yoink at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2013


So, it's good if Americans realize this term is offensive in Canada and try to avoid using it. But it would also be good if Canadians could realize that this term is not universally offensive, and point out that the term is offensive in Canada if you notice someone using it, and maybe accept "sorry, I didn't know that" as reply, rather than insisting that the person using it a racist bigot and should be banned from the site, especially if the usage doesn't seem to have been intentionally offensive. And basically the same thing applies in similar situations.

This is excellent and sensible advice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the name of an article has a racial slur in it, then the Metafilter policy is generally to either delete the post or ask that the title of the post be changed. Do you really have a problem with this policy? It seems like a good one to me.

It's actually a bit more complicated than that. I'd characterize our policy as far as there is one as being to take a hard look at a title/post using charged language of any sort and basically try and suss out whether it's justified in context to have it there. Context does matter a lot, the use-vs-mention distinction is a real one, and how to approach any given instance will depend significantly on the details.

Changing the quoted title of a linked article to an invented bowdlerized version of that title after the fact is not really one of the more likely outcomes for this sort of thing. Deletion as just not workable is a lot more likely. In this case I think it's complicated enough that that doesn't feel like the way to go, though I also think this discussion here is really worthwhile as an examination of hte problems with the use of the word and if I had a magic wand I'd go back and change the actual layout and framing of the post a little to put more emphasis on link text being a quotation of the source.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


No. The alternative is calling the post "Counting Yupik words for snow: A citizen's guide." That is a very simple and straightforward title for a post, particularly considering that the first line of the article mentions the Yupik by name anyway.

Except it would be entirely misleading. There's no meme out there in the wild about "the Yupik having X many words for snow." There is a meme about "the Inuit having X many words for snow"--but that's just because well-meaning people have substituted the word "Inuit" for the word "Eskimo" in the prevailing meme. And, as many have pointed out, it would be really perverse to title this post "Counting Inuit words for snow."
posted by yoink at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2013


A few thoughts:

First, I think that there seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not it's a racial slur according to opinion, but I think given something like this, it'd be really helpful, particularly given the complexity, if someone included a link to a breakdown of why it is offensive. Reading this thread, it seems as if someone is saying that A is in the subset of B, and thus are often referred to as B, but C is not in the subset of B and would prefer to be called C. So the Yup'ik would fall under the category of Eskimo, and refer to themselves thus, but the Inuit don't want to be called Eskimo, but shouldn't.

This seems, again, just from my read, that the initial "Racial slur" aspect of it all is the idea that "all far-North First Nations people are the same." That there's no uniqueness, and thus they can all just be lumped under "Eskimo." Which means, I would think, that the idea of mixing up the tribes so that they have no uniqueness, but still taking the word Eskimo as an insult, would actually be more true to the spirit of offense than healing.

I completely acknowledge the possibility of being wrong, though - as an East Coaster, they're not tribes I have a lot of contact with.
posted by corb at 9:32 AM on February 1, 2013


Hot Damn. Can we start telling Canuck jokes in this thread?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2013


it's as if you were suddenly told that "Canadian" meant "person who sodomizes pigs"
Well bugger is derived from an old French word for Bulgarians, due to the existence of Bulgarian heretics (and supposedly sodomites) in medieval times. So bugger should be offensive to Bulgarians.
What we need is a Greasemonkey script linked to a list of {offensive word ; non-offensive replacement ; country } so that naughty words are replaced on the fly depending on the visitor's IP address. That would leave the issue of people like US expats trapped in some cunt-loving country (for instance), but I guess that some opt-in/out option + a cookie could solve that too. Of course that would not be fully satisfying, so at one point the only solution would be to keep a big list of potential offensive words and their replacements on MeFi that users could customize in the Automatic Bowdlerization panel in Preferences.
posted by elgilito at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2013


yoink: “Except it would be entirely misleading. There's no meme out there in the wild about...”

Honestly, I think cortex's point that a deletion-with-retry-possibility is much more likely than a renaming is worth taking into account. However, I have to say that I personally don't really think breaking a meme makes a title "misleading." And I don't really care about breaking memes at all. People would probably at least recognize the part about "words for snow" no matter what comes before it.

But, yeah. This is probably a moot point, really.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on February 1, 2013


This seems, again, just from my read, that the initial "Racial slur" aspect of it all is the idea that "all far-North First Nations people are the same."

From what I've read that's not the origin of the objection. My understanding is that a misunderstanding arose as to the origin of the word that saw it as an insulting Algonkian term meaning "eaters of raw meat." So the objection was "hey, you're using some non-Inuit tribe's insulting term for us!" The only problem being that most linguists think that this is a false etymology.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on February 1, 2013


Except it would be entirely misleading. There's no meme out there in the wild about "the Yupik having X many words for snow." There is a meme about "the Inuit having X many words for snow"--but that's just because well-meaning people have substituted the word "Inuit" for the word "Eskimo" in the prevailing meme. And, as many have pointed out, it would be really perverse to title this post "Counting Inuit words for snow."

The fact that the meme could adapt from Eskimo to Inuit is exactly how it could also change from Inuit to Yupik.

I mean, people change "all your X belong to us" all the time and people recognize it. It's the structure that's recognizable. I am sure a few people would miss it if you avoided using the word Eskimo, but generally I think if people are talking about words for snow, the first thing you think of are indigenous people of the north.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:44 AM on February 1, 2013


The fact that the meme could adapt from Eskimo to Inuit is exactly how it could also change from Inuit to Yupik.

But the point of the post is not "hey you guys, you're forgetting that the Yupik also totally have lots of words for snow!!!" No one wants to "adapt" this stupid meme to include the Yupik. They want to talk about the meme as it exists, but not propagate it or extend its range.
posted by yoink at 9:47 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the link could have been labeled something involving "dozens of words for snow" without mentioned any ethnic group, and it would have been pretty clear what it was talking about. Alternatively, the mention-use distinction could have been made clearer, by putting "Eskimo words for snow" in quotation marks.
posted by vasi at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should have been more careful. I had four thoughts and hoped a conversation would clarify things.

a) That, as a Canadian, that word is beyond the pale.
b) That, I recognize the context in which it was written.
c) That, for some Yupik, the word is not only outside the pale, but in proper context.
d) That the post concerned the Yupik.
e) That the article itself was really interesting.

That MeFi is international, and that it works on being sensitive to social and cultural issues, and that the word is so offensive in Canada, and with the recent Idle No More protests suggesting that this was much more in human context, I had concerns.

That was all.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:02 AM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think that there seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not it's a racial slur according to opinion

No, it really is an unacceptable term in the bit of Canada where I live. If my kids used it at school they'd get a talking-to. It's pretty much on a par with 'Red Indian'. And 'Indian' isn't far behind it.
posted by unSane at 10:03 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I think is probably the best advice on this:

a) Avoid saying "Eskimo" because it pisses off Canadians, including Inuit.


But also

b) Don't use "Inuit" to refer to people who aren't Inuit.

But it would also be good if Canadians could realize that this term is not universally offensive, and point out that the term is offensive in Canada if you notice someone using it, and maybe accept "sorry, I didn't know that" as reply

Or to accept "No, I'm not talking about the Inuit, and that's what some non-Inuit prefer" as a reply.

I should have been more careful. I had four thoughts and hoped a conversation would clarify things.

I think what makes this especially twitchy is that the article only uses examples from Yup'ik, but is also clearly using Yup'ik as an avatar for all Arctic aboriginal peoples. So it's using specifically Eskimo people to also stand in for people who'd hate to be called Eskimo.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, as a Canadian, I had no idea I was supposed to be so offended by the word Eskimo. I knew it was deprecated in favor of Inuit for Canadian First Nations People of the North, but I didn't realize it had gone all the way down the road to being comparable to nigger in terms of inappropriateness.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:14 AM on February 1, 2013


But the point of the post is not "hey you guys, you're forgetting that the Yupik also totally have lots of words for snow!!!"

It's actually a post on the difference between a lexeme and a word and how that applies to snow-related language in Yup'ik.

The author of the article clarifies why they use Eskimo in the title but it's wholly irrelevant to the actual content as the list is Yup'ik only. There's no reason to use it, other than to describe that the Yup'ik are a subset of a broader group of indigenous people that colloquially are known as Eskimo.

Given its irrelevance to the actual content and given Canadians as far as Nova Scotia (me) find it offensive, I see no reason for a broken meme to prevent the word from being removed on Mefi.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:16 AM on February 1, 2013


And 'Indian' isn't far behind it.

Whereas in the States that is absolutely not the case. Derek Bailey, the president of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, spoke at my grandmother's funeral, and talked extensively about her work for Indian rights and Indian recognition. Again, this isn't a "gay people can call each other faggot so why can't I" reclaiming issue; the word is the preferred self-descriptor.
posted by KathrynT at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


It may be the preferred self-descriptor for aborgional people, but not for white people--and I thot that the preferred self-descriptor was the nation name, regardless?
posted by PinkMoose at 10:22 AM on February 1, 2013


Just to clear one thing up for the people who are still asking, Yup'ik people absolutely self-describe as "Eskimo". It's not a question of how other people describe them; that is a description they embrace.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Interestingly, Canadian is also a racial slur. It is sometimes used as a derogatory term for African-Americans.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2013


As a general rule, I have heard that Indian should be used in Canada:

- in reference to the Indian Act
- not otherwise, even though some people use it as a self-descriptor, because it's one of those kinds of being-reclaimed terms.

Here's a Metis woman discussing (Canadian) terminology. (Her blog is generally very good.)
posted by jeather at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


and I thot that the preferred self-descriptor was the nation name, regardless?

Not always. When referring to issues that are common across multiple nations, Indian is frequently the preferred term. Mr. Bailey, again, self-describes as an Ottawa Indian of the Grand Traverse Band.
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on February 1, 2013


Ad hominem: “Interestingly, Canadian is also a racial slur. It is sometimes used as a derogatory term for African-Americans.”

Mm, I don't think that's precisely the case. A racial slur is a derogatory term intended to cause offence. As far as I can tell, the racists who use the term "Canadian" as a secretive way to refer to black people while attempting to avoid raising the hackles of those of us in the PC brigade are using "Canadians" as a cryptonym. (Also, they really think we're very, very dumb not to catch on to this.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


PinkMoose, in US usage, a national descriptor like "Lakota" is like "French" and "Indian", "Native", "Native American" (in the US) is like "European". There are cross-nations issues of "Indian rights" or "Native rights".

The way the US did the reservation and boarding school system also means that a lot of Native people in the US have multinational heritages. So, someone like Sherman Alexie, who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, describes himself as "Indian" rather than self-describing as affiliated with/enrolled in/descended from the Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, Colville, and Flathead nations.

Louise Erdrich, on the other hand, self-describes as "affiliated with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians". The children's literature scholar Debbie Reese self-describes as "tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo" and also self-describes as "American Indian" in her work on stereotypes in literature.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The author of the article clarifies why they use Eskimo in the title but it's wholly irrelevant to the actual content

How can it be irrelevant to the actual content when it is the phrasing of the cliche being discussed? If I wanted to talk about the etymology of and misconceptions associated with the terms "gypped" or "Indian giver" how could I possibly do so without using those words? The whole point of discussing the thing at all is to draw attention to the differences between how these languages work in reality and the tired cliche of the phrase the "X number of Eskimo words for snow".

Referring to the existence of a slur is not the same thing as calling someone a slur.
posted by Diablevert at 10:45 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have lived my whole life in Alaska, and currently travel all around the west (Yup'ik) and north (Inupiat) coasts of that state, and have friends in just about every village.

As noted, the people who live there refer to themselves as eskimos (cf Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, etc. etc.). Further, they are a tough and proud people. I doubt it's ever even occurred to them to get their panties in wad, Metafilter style, over some hypersensitive notion of what other people think they should be called. They know who they are, they're proud of it, and they have more important things to worry about.
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:46 AM on February 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


A racial slur is a derogatory term intended to cause offense

I'm not sure that is the case. If we were both racists, neither of us would be offended, but certain words would still be slurs no? What I mean is that I don't think it has to be directed at anyone to be a slur.

I also think an in-word can be a slur. "Moolie" was a slur before everyone knew what it meant right?

I think canadian, when not applied to residents of the country of Canada, must certainly be demeaning and derogatory, or else they wouldn't need to use the word or hide what they are talking about.

This may be off-topic, probably shouldn't have brought it up anyway.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:48 AM on February 1, 2013


I actually don't think that that has been established. Has anybody offered good evidence that the Yupik have affirmatively referred to themselves as "Eskimos"?

Spitbull has some discussion of this in the other thread. Taz found some examples of Yupik referring to themselves as eskimos. Bonehead said, "I'll tell you, I was more than a bit surprised when the first time I heard a Yupik elder refer to himself as an Eskimo." The Bristol Bay Native Corporation refers to the Yupik who reside on the Bristol Bay side of the Alaska Penninsula as "eskimos."

As for Indian, my limited experience is that American Indian or Indian is much more commonly used in Indian Country than Native American.
posted by Area Man at 10:49 AM on February 1, 2013


If we were both racists

I think it's useful here to distinguish between racism and bigotry/prejudice. The latter is rare and on MeFi thankfully all but nonexistent. The former, however, describes not an attitude per se but a pervasive cultural system whereby minority groups are marginalized and deprived of rights and respect. In that sense, it really is irrelevant whether use of a term is intended to cause offense.

This is what a lot of the white folks in Wisconsin (where we have a state law granting tribal members standing in lawsuits against school districts that use their tribe's name as a mascot) misunderstand when they're asked to change the name of their high school football team. "But it's actually admiration!"

As such, it's always important to analyze usage without respect to motivation. No doubt there were many who once would have labeled a phrase like "strapping young buck" as a kind of admiration. Today, we generally see that it's patronizing and demeaning, even if it was meant to be complimentary in a formerly acceptable context.
posted by dhartung at 11:04 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mm, I don't think that's precisely the case. A racial slur is a derogatory term intended to cause offence. As far as I can tell, the racists who use the term "Canadian" as a secretive way to refer to black people while attempting to avoid raising the hackles of those of us in the PC brigade are using "Canadians" as a cryptonym.

Wait, I hate to derail, but is this an actual thing?
posted by corb at 11:17 AM on February 1, 2013


Further, they are a tough and proud people. I doubt it's ever even occurred to them to get their panties in wad, Metafilter style, over some hypersensitive notion of what other people think they should be called.

Not like black people, you mean? Or Canadian Aboriginals? Please tell us who you don't think is tough enough.
posted by ODiV at 11:19 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I think this issue isn't being characterized entirely correctly in the last so many comments. It isn't just that the word Eskimo is offensive in Canada and not offensive in Alaska, but rather that the Yupik actually refer to themselves as Eskimos. Given that, I don't think deletion is warranted and would be problematic.

Not only that, but as cortex and others have pointed out, the word "Eskimo" is a basic part of the meme. It would be ridiculous to change the word. And it would be even more ridiculous to delete the post. I understand that Canadians find the word problematic, but the entire world does not run on Canada Standard Sensibilities.
posted by languagehat at 11:21 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


ODiV, I'm not sure I follow you. You don't think black people are tough, or something? Please clarify.
posted by Alaska Jack at 11:23 AM on February 1, 2013


corb: “Wait, I hate to derail, but is this an actual thing?”

Sadly, yes. And on reading that, I might be wrong about it not being precisely a slur – not sure now.
posted by koeselitz at 11:24 AM on February 1, 2013


Sorry, obviously I misunderstood because that's what I thought you were saying.
posted by ODiV at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2013


Alaska Jack: “As noted, the people who live there refer to themselves as eskimos (cf Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, etc. etc.). Further, they are a tough and proud people. I doubt it's ever even occurred to them to get their panties in wad, Metafilter style, over some hypersensitive notion of what other people think they should be called. They know who they are, they're proud of it, and they have more important things to worry about.”

ODiV: “Not like black people, you mean? Or Canadian Aboriginals? Please tell us who you don't think is tough enough.”

Alaska Jack: “ODiV, I'm not sure I follow you. You don't think black people are tough, or something? Please clarify.”

I don't mean to speak for ODiV here, but: I think what he was saying is that, while I don't think you intended to, you pretty heavily implied there that First Nations people in Canada, who object to the term "Eskimo" as a racial slur, aren't "tough" and "get their panties in a wad" and are "oversensitive" when they ask that people not call them that.

Like I say, I don't think you meant to say that. At the same time, I think we should acknowledge that it's totally fair for Canadian First Nations people to ask that people not call them "Eskimos," and for them to see that as a slur. It's not weak or lily-livered or whatever for them to say that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I understand that Canadians find the word problematic, but the entire world does not run on Canada Standard Sensibilities.

So whose sensibilities should the world run on? Or does a word have to be universally considered problematic for it to be avoided in general or on Meafilter?

I think we should acknowledge that it's totally fair for Canadian First Nations people to ask that people not call them "Eskimos,"

Especially as the First Nations excludes the Inuit (and the Metis).
posted by jeather at 11:33 AM on February 1, 2013


i am not sure i want to see the language on the front page
posted by PinkMoose at 12:16 PM on February 1


Oh, for God's sake. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with this place. And yes, you don't need to post the obvious rejoinder.

In my understanding "Eskimo" is often used in Alaska by the Yup'ik (and possibly other groups?) to refer to themselves,
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:56 PM on February 1


Oh, don't be harshing the Mefi PC Police's vibe with shades of grey. That's bullying. Probably.
posted by Decani at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not like black people, you mean?

Luke Cage is pretty damn strong.

Or Canadian Aboriginals? Please tell us who you don't think is tough enough.

He's probably making a general dig at Meefites.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Decani: “Oh, for God's sake. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with this place. And yes, you don't need to post the obvious rejoinder.”

Well, I'll post it anyway: you don't bother with this place anymore, Decani. You just leave short drive-by rants like this and then storm out of threads, never to be heard from again until the next thread that displeases you.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mm, I don't think that's precisely the case. A racial slur is a derogatory term intended to cause offence. As far as I can tell, the racists who use the term "Canadian" as a secretive way to refer to black people while attempting to avoid raising the hackles of those of us in the PC brigade are using "Canadians" as a cryptonym.

Wait, I hate to derail, but is this an actual thing?


I first heard of this phenomenon cropping up among waitstaff, who would use it specifically to talk about black people who didn't tip well. Since there is a stereotype in America that Canadians and black people are poor tippers. (PS: I am not endorsing this viewpoint!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:38 AM on February 1, 2013


I understand that Canadians find the word problematic...

I think this is simplifying the issue. There's a racial group, many of whom reside in Canada and Greenland, who see this word as a racial slur. Many Canadians don't have an issue with it at all.

koeselitz, Brandon Blatcher: Yeah, I should try to be more clear, obviously.
posted by ODiV at 11:40 AM on February 1, 2013


jeather: “Especially as the First Nations excludes the Inuit (and the Metis).”

Didn't realize that, thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2013


The Wikipedia Talk Page for Eskimo is interesting reading, by the way.
posted by ODiV at 11:47 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't realize that, thanks.

Yeah, it's actually a mistake I have to remind myself not to make because it just feels like the First Nations should include all the nations who were here (so not the Metis) but it doesn't.
posted by jeather at 11:50 AM on February 1, 2013


So whose sensibilities should the world run on? Or does a word have to be universally considered problematic for it to be avoided in general or on Meafilter?

Why would we avoid using a label that the Yupik and other native Alaskans themselves use, sometimes with pride? I'm in favor of deferring to the sensibilities of the people who are being discussed. If the Yupik or Inupiat from Alaska found the term derogatory, I'd be suggesting we respect their wishes. That, however, does not seem to be the case.
posted by Area Man at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


corb: “Wait, I hate to derail, but is this an actual thing?”

Sadly, yes. And on reading that, I might be wrong about it not being precisely a slur – not sure now.


:\

On the one hand, of course it's shitty that there are racist people. But as a Canadian, I think that's kind of awesome that we can now lay claim to a whole mess of great Jazz, Funk, & Soul musicians.
posted by juv3nal at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2013


PinkMoose: as a Canadian, that word is beyond the pale.

As a person of color (both Green and Orange) I find your use of 'beyond the Pale' insensitive and racist.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


> So whose sensibilities should the world run on? Or does a word have to be universally considered problematic for it to be avoided in general or on Meafilter?

As others have said, it's a complicated world and it's impossible to lay down rules that are both simple and workable. (This is a problem that comes up often on MetaTalk, actually, not just in discussions of "Eskimo.") I used to think "cunt" was universally offensive; once I learned (right here on MetaTalk!) that it was not considered so in the UK, I realized I should not take offense at it when it was used by UKanians, because they did not consider it offensive and were not trying to offend anybody. I would recommend this attitude in preference to trying to police the world in a futile effort to make sure that nobody anywhere is ever exposed to a term they find offensive. (Note that I am not saying that nobody should take offense at a term directed at them, but as far as I am aware there are no Inuit in this thread objecting to the use of "Eskimo," just Canadians who have had it drummed into them that Canadian Inuit find it offensive. While I respect secondhand offense, I do not defer to it as readily as I do to firsthand offense.)
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, of course it's shitty that there are racist people. But as a Canadian, I think that's kind of awesome that we can now lay claim to a whole mess of great Jazz, Funk, & Soul musicians

As a black person living in the South, I'm willing to trade jazz for that fablous 20th century invention, "socialized" healthcare.

Keep your cold paws off the Delta Blues, though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:27 PM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


And now I have also learned that the Inuit of Canada's North are also not considered First Nations people.

I really had no idea it was all this complicated.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:29 PM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The blog post jeather links to is excellent. It's exactly in line with both my experiences working with native communities and with the training I've had.
posted by bonehead at 12:41 PM on February 1, 2013


just Canadians who have had it drummed into them

That's a bit uncharitable.

I'm not someone who objected to the use of the word in the post, but I absolutely consider it a slur to the Inuit and not just because it was "drummed into" me.
posted by ODiV at 12:41 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I first heard of this phenomenon cropping up among waitstaff, who would use it specifically to talk about black people who didn't tip well. Since there is a stereotype in America that Canadians and black people are poor tippers. (PS: I am not endorsing this viewpoint!)

Which is an interesting (if shitty) connection to draw, since in Canada the standard tip is 10-15%, rather than the 15-20% or more in the US, so someone from Canada who tips 10% on a bill would probably be seen as cheap in the US, even if the Canadian had no intention of stiffing their waitstaff.

Generally speaking, I think being understanding of cultural relativity and making allowance for each others' respective frames of references where reasonable is naturally preferable to name-calling and rank generalizations. I'm sorry it seems to be super upsetting to people that we even want to discuss the idea that a word might be considered offensive in Canada. As I said, I don't agree with the suggestion of deleting or revising the original post, but I do think there is value to be had in this sort of clarifying conversation, and I'm glad PinkMoose provided the platform in which to have it.
posted by Phire at 12:44 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh wait, was the drumming supposed to be a pun?
posted by ODiV at 12:45 PM on February 1, 2013


as far as I am aware there are no Inuit in this thread objecting to the use of "Eskimo," just Canadians who have had it drummed into them that Canadian Inuit find it offensive.

Does this mean I can start calling Gypsies Gypsies again?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2013


Does this mean I can start calling Gypsies Gypsies again?

*Compares person against database and DNA matches.*

No, you're not on the list.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:10 PM on February 1, 2013


Sounds like y'all got this more or less sorted out while I was asleep. I am in New Zealand at the moment, but I'm from California. I learned a lot from this; thanks y'all.
posted by aniola at 1:10 PM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just one opinion- after reading the article, as well as spitbull's comment in that thread, I don't find the use of the work "Eskimo" to be problematic, despite an initial shock at seeing it.

This has been an education read for this ignorant southerner. (Canadian southerner, that it).
posted by beau jackson at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


please pass the whale blubber.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:21 PM on February 1, 2013


After reading links, etc, it seems pretty clear that referring to Inuit as Eskimos would is offensive and should be strictly avoided but that referring to some other peoples such as the Yupik as Eskimos is appropriate and their own preferred terminology. Doesn't seem all that complicated to me.
posted by Justinian at 1:21 PM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was born in Alaska and have lived here my entire life. I had some vague understanding that the term Eskimo was outdated when referring to Native Alaskans, but all Yup'ik peoples I've ever met refer to themselves as Eskimo. I had no idea that some groups or cultures, especially Canadians, found the word derogative. I've learned a lot because of this thread.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:35 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get that Inuit people in Canada find being called "Eskimo" an insulting slur.

But Yup'ik people self-describe as "Eskimo" and, in my experience, have shared the view that they find being called "Inuit" at best weirdly off base, and at most, slightly insulting because (understandably) they don't like white people suggesting that the word they embrace for their culture and language is wrong, and they should instead call themselves by the name applied to a neighboring cultural and linguistic group that isn't all that particularly closely connected to them apart from geographic propinquity.

In my experience, Aleut people also don't like being called "Inuit" even more than they don't like being called "Eskimo". The Aleut language and culture is its own thing entirely.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:46 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was pretty shocked to see that. I figured it would be flagged and fixed so I didn't bother flagging it. But, yes, I was shocked.
posted by windykites at 1:55 PM on February 1, 2013


(That it didn't say first nations or inuit I mean).
posted by windykites at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2013


If we are going to use the word, let's spell it "Esquimaux."
posted by dendrochronologizer at 1:59 PM on February 1, 2013


meaux
posted by Burhanistan at 2:00 PM on February 1, 2013


Another point that I think is maybe being missed is that the linguistics profession's name for the language group that includes Inuit and Yup'ik is "Eskimo". That should be changed, I would think, since it's a word many Inuit find offensive, but right now that's the term of art for that language group, and someone reduplicating the title of a linguistics article about the Eskimo language group isn't using a racist slur. And when the article is about Yup'ik vocabulary in particular, and presumably the Yup'ik informants would be likely to self-describe as "Eskimo"...

I do think that linguistics terms of art need to be more carefully and frequently evaluated so as not to be hurtful to speakers of the languages in question. "Serbo-Croatian" is another minefield, as you might imagine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:01 PM on February 1, 2013


But windykites, are you getting that you were shocked by seeing the word "Eskimo" used about a group of people (Yup'ik speakers in the US) who describe themselves as Eskimos?

I was honestly more shocked by the suggestion in this thread that it should be changed to "Inuit" which is like saying that a thread about the Dutch language should be renamed "German".
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:05 PM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I figured it would be flagged and fixed so I didn't bother flagging it.

If not flagged by you, who would flag it?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:17 PM on February 1, 2013


Calling Inuit Eskimos is like calling Canadians Americans; people who don't know the difference do it a lot, and it can be very off-pissing, because it is very, very wrong to the wronged party. But calling Eskimos Eskimos is no worse than calling Americans Americans. It's not a slur in and of itself; it's just more specific than some people realize.

(That said, Edmonton needs to rename its football team already, because that is some weird ass bullshit.)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:39 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find the lingering confusion about this bemusing. I mean, it seems pretty straigthforward to me:

1) The article was about a - frankly racist - cliche, involving "eskimo"

2) In order to show the foolishness of this cliche, the writer gave examples from a group of people that call themselves "eskimo".

So, on both counts, I would say "eskimo" is the right term to use here. The racist cliche is about "eskimo" - no point calling it something else; the eskimo examples used to undermine the cliche.

I totally understand that it's offensive to many Canadians and inuit people, but it's not being used in that sense in the article, I feel. I dunno, I think this distinction is pretty clear.

It's like, calling my boss a "vagina" in an email would be offensive and inappropriate, talking about the vaginas as they pertain to "the vagina monologues" is not.
posted by smoke at 3:07 PM on February 1, 2013


Holy fuck this is tiresome.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:57 PM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a very complicated topic for me. My first cousin is Yu'pik and frankly, the family would be delighted and overjoyed if she referred to herself as Eskimo or Yu'pik or native Alaskan or nearly anything other than 'adopted from China.' So I really struggle with (and am slightly offended by) the idea that 'Eskimo' is a slur, because for my cousin it would represent an incredible step forward in reclaiming her identity.

I guess my two cents in this instance are that it's good to know that Canadians have strong feelings about the word 'Eskimo' and that's worth respecting but the specific instance which we're discussing here necessarily brings in the term because the common myth which the article is debunking ('Eskimos have 100 words for snow') uses it, and that's ok.
posted by librarylis at 3:59 PM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


An aside: may I warn North Americans that, contrary to a common theme on MetaFilter, the word "cunt" is generally considered very, very offensive in the UK. My friendly advice would be that you never use it. Note that I am a privileged rich white Protestant straight male: I cannot personally be targeted by any slur*, and the word does not offend me personally. This is purely a public service broadcast for prospective visitors who may have been misled by MetaFilter on British usage of the word "cunt".

* by any of you, probably: full-tenure Russell Group professors, members of the 1%, and public school attendees with minor titles can all give me a kicking, for example, but that's not the general discourse here.
posted by alasdair at 4:19 PM on February 1, 2013


the word "cunt" is generally considered very, very offensive in the UK

This is true, but it is still not subject to quite the same kind of taboo as it is in America. "Cunt" in the UK, Australia and NZ is a word that is considered a very, very strong swearword, but not a word whose mere use suggests that you are a bad person. That is, it's a word which you need to be careful about deploying, but not a word that is completely verboten and which the use of, even under extreme provocation and in an informal setting involving only your peers, is thoroughly deprecated. Here in the US it's much more like that. It's simply not supposed to be part of your vocabulary at all.

That, at least, is my take on it.
posted by yoink at 4:27 PM on February 1, 2013


Had no idea the duty of being subject to and of the Canadian nation required the drawing of sudden breath upon seeing the E word ... wails.
posted by phoque at 5:42 PM on February 1, 2013


Eskimo has been on the "do not use" list for my employer for at least three years. I am also not supposed to say "flip chart" to describe the folding easel that holds a pad of paper. I am also cautioned to avoid referring to "blind" or "double blind" studies unless I am at a professional conference.
posted by 99percentfake at 6:04 PM on February 1, 2013


also cautioned to avoid referring to "blind" or "double blind" studies unless I am at a professional conference

What are you supposed to call them?
posted by Justinian at 6:06 PM on February 1, 2013


Visually impaired studies?
posted by Area Man at 6:08 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can call them "masked" or "double masked" or use something vague like "controlled studies".
posted by 99percentfake at 6:14 PM on February 1, 2013


Wait, flip chart?
posted by mosessis at 6:19 PM on February 1, 2013


There is a history of the word "flip" being used as a slur to people of Filipino descent.
posted by 99percentfake at 6:28 PM on February 1, 2013


I have a small collection of Inuit art pieces that I collected over the years, mainly when I lived in Maine. I had a friend who was involved with some of the certified native art cooperatives; he had native artists come down to represent the coops in displaying and selling work a few times a year. While the term Inuit was always the term that was used, I did hear native people from Nunavut use the term eskimo, and was familiar with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative of Cape Dorset - well known for the beautiful work by its artists and a name that is still in use today. In fact, a few other Nunavut coops still have the term eskimo in their name: Issatik Eskimo Co-operative Ltd., Paleajook Eskimo Co-op Ltd.

I add this just as a point of interest. No doubt the co-op names are holdovers of a time gone by but I find it curious that if the term is so offensive, it is still in use today and hasn't been changed. I have always used the term Inuit with the understanding that it was the prefered term. I knew that "eskimo" was not favored but I did not put it on par with extreme racial pejoratives that I hear discussed in this thread.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:13 PM on February 1, 2013


> That being said, there just isn't a good term to talk about aboriginal/native groups in northwestern North America

"Inuit-Yupik" exists as a term without the baggage of "Eskimo," and is more inclusive than either Inuit or Yupik alone. Just wanted to mention that, and also preen over having thrown that very compound term into the other slur thread yesterday, before this one even got started. jfuller, on the bleeding edge of sensitivity as always.
posted by jfuller at 8:32 PM on February 1, 2013


There is a history of the word "flip" being used as a slur to people of Filipino descent.

We've made it this far and no one has said "It's political correctness gone mad!" yet?

Once again the Racial Slur Data Base proves useful.

Shortened and rearranged term, easier to say. Could also stand for "Funny (or Fucking) Little Island People".

Since the nation is a series of islands, I wonder if its regional to Cebu or one of the other islands specifically?

I hope 99percentfake's work bans the use of the word 'skip', Nasa and Bee-keeper.
Although I do wonder at the accuracy of the RSDB since it contains a slur (Ant) for the people of Antarctica.
posted by Mezentian at 9:23 PM on February 1, 2013


99percentfake: “Eskimo has been on the 'do not use' list for my employer for at least three years. I am also not supposed to say 'flip chart' to describe the folding easel that holds a pad of paper. I am also cautioned to avoid referring to 'blind' or 'double blind' studies unless I am at a professional conference.”

I am not going to believe this unless presented with some actual documentary evidence. Sorry, but your username seems a little too true.

Mezentian: “We've made it this far and no one has said ‘It's political correctness gone mad!’ yet?”

I think at this point people have figured out that it's quicker to just shout "I'm a douchebag!" and get it over with.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia article on Eskimo-Aleut languages gives Yupik-Inuit as an alternative name for what's still more commonly called the Eskimo language family.

I don't think I've seen an article on "Eskimo words for snow" that used Aleut examples, but I've seen plenty that used Yup'ik, Qikiqtaaluk Uannangani, and Kalaallisut.

So Yupik-Inuit should be fine as a replacement term from an academic point of view. I am not sure it's a satisfying ethnonym, but we're really talking about the languages here, and even Yupik-Inuit-Aleut would not really be a mouthful compared to many language family names.

Personally, I'll try to remember that Canadians care about this.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:52 PM on February 1, 2013


I'm American and didn't realize Eskimo is considered a slur in some other countries. I personally find it nice to know.
posted by Autumn at 5:21 AM on February 2, 2013


Eskimo is not considered a slur in Canada.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:13 PM on February 2, 2013


Yes, it is.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:34 PM on February 2, 2013


Still not a slur, sorry (though certainly a term to avoided if one wishes to honor the requests of the subset of the people in question who prefer it not be used).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:39 PM on February 2, 2013


Yes, it is.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:44 PM on February 2, 2013


Your own link (for what it's worth, which isn't certain) says
"Eskimo" has often been used in a racist or demeaning way over the years, so although some communities do continue to use the word, others prefer to be called by their native name for themselves, Inuit.
so perhaps our understanding of 'considered a slur' is different. Regardless, though, I'm going to stop now, because I refuse to be drawn into this depressing drainpipe of self-congratulation.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:50 PM on February 2, 2013


"Self-congratulation"? The first link contains the line, "National Inuit Leader Mary Simon said the term is offensive to her people and has no place in public discussion." If suggesting that Mary Simon might be a better authority on the matter than some random on the internet counts as "self-congratulation," well, congratulations to me.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2013


At the very least, "Eskimo" is considered a slur by Canadian indigenous people.
posted by gingerest at 5:08 PM on February 2, 2013


Stav, I guess you're done here, but you were completely opaque about what you think a "slur" is. I think Sys Rq was working under the assumption that a slur is a term used in a racist or demeaning way. In fact, that seems like a reasonable assumption, doesn't it? Or is a slur secretly a kind of antelope that roams the tundra in Irkutsk, and we just weren't aware of it?
posted by koeselitz at 8:14 PM on February 2, 2013


You just leave short drive-by rants like this and then storm out of threads, never to be heard from again until the next thread that displeases you.

You mean he's following the rule that you're not supposed to use a "take all comers" approach?
posted by John Cohen at 9:25 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, that was a shitty thing for me to say. Sorry, Decani.
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 PM on February 13, 2013


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