Life That What Once May Have Been Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

life that what once may have been a derogatory word for something may have, over the years, come to mean something entirely different, and in a similar fashion, what was once a term of endearment or something commonplace may have evolved through the years, into something that would have derogatory connotations. (World Wide Words) For example, when one interviewer asked an American about the origin of the word 'Bozo', he had to refer to a Dictionary, and what he was about to discover amazed him. This was because of the fact that most Dictionaries tended to avoid the word Bozo for some reason or another, giving a vague and uncertain 'origin uncertain' as the explanation. As a matter of fact, the term Bozo seems to have initially appeared in the year 1916, and one of the first meanings for the word probably meant 'man' or a 'fellow'. Later on, it appears to have taken on the meaning of a stupid man or a foolish man, or somebody who was oafish and annoying. (World Wide Words: Bozo)

The Dictionary of American Slang described a Bozo as a 'muscular type with a meager brain'. After some time, the meaning once again appears to have been re-defined, and bozo came to be known as a buffoon or a fool, or a clumsy and a stupid person, with connotations of foolishness. With the advent of computer technology and the various slangs that it gave birth to, the word bozo came to mean someone who came close to "resembling or having the quality of a bozo; that is, clownish, ludicrously wrong, unintentionally humorous," as it was defined by the online 'Jargon File'. This shift in actuality happened during the 1950's, when Bozo the Clown gained in popularity. This character initially appeared in the comic book and record, 'Bozo in the Circus', which was produced by Capitol Records' in the year 1946. A former circus clown named Pinto Colvig lent his voice to the character, and the clown became hugely popular. The same became an extremely popular television series in subsequent years, during the 1950's, and today, when one is asked the question about the origins of the word, no one can actually give a proper answer. Some state that it may have perhaps originated form the Spanish term 'bozo', which means a 'light down on the upper lip', or it may have originated from another Spanish word, 'bozal' which meant stupid or foolish'. (World Wide Words: Bozo)

In recent times, the Hurricane Katrina has led to a lot of controversy and confusion about what exactly to call those people who were forced to flee form the scene of the disaster in New Orleans, Mississippi, and several other neighboring areas 'refugees' or by some other more appropriate term. It is a fact that most early newspaper reports happened to call these unfortunate people escaping form their homes 'refugees'. For example, the newspaper article dated September 1st that appeared in USA Today stated "Astrodome to become new home for storm refugees," the Atlanta Journal and Constitution dated September 2nd, called them 'refugees' as well: "Bus refugees overcome bureaucracy." The New York Times made a similar gaffe in an article on September 4th, wherein these people were termed as 'refugees' too, as seen in "The refugee emergency is beginning to affect neighboring states, Texas most of all." Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick took umbrage at the word, and angrily stated on CNN that no American citizen could really be called a 'refugee' in his own land. Soon others joined in, and Bruce Gordon declared that it was indeed an 'offensive term', and that when the word refugee was used, then it would mean that these people were not really Americans, and that they were not a part of the country. (World Wide Words: Refugee)

In fact, President Bush also stated that one must not refer to them as refugees, because they were 'Americans'. When one refers to a Dictionary, the word 'refugee' actually declares that he is someone who "has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster." Therefore, the arguments do seem to be completely futile and pointless. This means that the persons who have been so vociferously objecting seem to be arguing that if the escaping people from the scene of disaster were refugees, then they were actually within the United States of America, and this would mean that they were not really American citizens. In addition, since it is a fact that most of the people who were left behind in New Orleans happened to be black, then this would mean that when one called them refugees, the one was being unnecessarily 'racist', implying that these blacks were not really American citizens, but were in fact 'second class' people. (World Wide Words: Refugee) The Reverend Jesse Jackson is known to have stated that "It is racist to call American citizens refugees." (New Orleans, should the Katrina displaced be called 'Refugees'?) Numerous others have stated that the words 'evacuees' and 'displaced' do not have the same sense of drama and passion that the word refugee seems to have, and therefore, refugee must be used. (New Orleans, should the Katrina displaced be called 'Refugees'?)

First of all, is it possible that the word 'refugee' can be 'racist'? Secondly, can refugee actually mean that someone is 'foreign'? The idea of using only politically correct terms has become quite ridiculous, and all the fuss could have been avoided if only journalists had thought of the word 'hurricane victim' to describe the poor survivors of hurricane Katrina. (Pettiness abounds 'Refugee' Stirs race debate) The incredible richness and enormity of the American language has been explained in the 'Historical Dictionary of American Slang', a work by JE Lighter. In the work, the author begins with the letter 'A', and continues up to 'O', and he has brilliantly illustrated his terms and words by tracing the origins of most common words in America to usage by sailors, cowboys, fishermen, policemen, students, and even drug addicts. It must be remembered that slang as such is much more difficult to define than proper words, for the most par because of its informal and casual nature, and many slang words do not appear in a Standard Dictionary at all. (Slang, an interview with JE Lighter by Hugh Rawson)

In an article by Carroll Andrew Morse, the semantic connotations of the word refugee are discussed, and this is what she had to say: displaced victims who are fleeing from a scene of disaster can be termed refugees, because they are running away to a safer place. Refugees, when taken in another context, have become political creations. (No Refugees in America) There seems to be no logic to the controversy surrounding the word, and perhaps it is the same logic that caused the public to fume when about forty years ago, white Americans became angered when the population referred to as 'negroes' stated that that was no longer acceptable, and they would thenceforth be known as 'blacks'. In a similar fashion, there were numerous people who resisted the change from 'handicapped' to 'disabled', and who will never use 'gay' or even 'Ms'. Thus it was that when the common word refugee was used to describe Katrina victims, there was a huge fuss about it, and the word seems to have acquired manifold connotations that had never been noticed before. It has today become re-defined as a racist, and as a derogatory term, which is also insensible and insensitive, and its very definition has changed over recent times alone. (Shall we use 'refugee' logic on 'negro'?)

However, this does not mean that the word will, in future, come to have connotations of racism, and it does not also mean that when people are struck down by natural disasters in the future, and have to flee, they would object to being referred to as 'refugees'. Nor does it mean that when people are called refugees, then they are being demeaned. As stated by an individual, the real problem here is perhaps the inability of the people of America to accept the fact that there are indeed refugees in their country, and the best way that they think they can deal with such a major problem is to change the language, and lay objections to simple things and make them into complex issues. Another individual had this to say, that the treatment that the victims and evacuees of Hurricane Katrina were getting was so very horribly inadequate that it was fit to call them refugees, without a proper home or land to call their own. (Is Refugee a Racist Term, Jesse Jackson seems to think so)

The term as such may not be racist at all, depending on the context it is used in, but still, the fact remains, states another, that it is a completely inaccurate term when used to describe these unfortunate people, because of the fact that it…

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