Language and Identity II.

Adam Taylor reports for the Washington Post on an interesting study:

On Wednesday afternoon, Pew Research Center released a study that looked at how national identity is defined across 14 different countries using survey data taken at the start of last year. In light of the ongoing debate about immigration in pretty much every part of the world, it makes for illustrative reading.

It turns out, for example, that most Americans don’t believe that where someone is born really defines whether they can be American or not. In fact, only a handful of the countries Pew surveyed thought this was important. And while America is a country well-known for its talk of values and God, most Americans don’t think that customs and religion are really important to being an American — and neither do most other countries.

Instead, Pew’s study found that in every country its researchers looked at, language was what really bound its national identity. The highest result was found in the Netherlands, where more than 84 percent of the population believes it is vital to speak Dutch if you want to truly be Dutch. But in all countries, a majority said it was “very important” to speak the national language.

This is not, of course, shocking news; as Taylor points out, Eric Hobsbawm wrote about it a long time ago. But the details are worth looking at, and I urge you to check out the table presented at the link. It ends with what is to me a heartening conclusion:

But things may change. For one thing, immigration also influences language: Germany has developed a colloquial language, “Kiezdeutsch,” which is primarily used by German speakers whose native tongue is Turkish or Arabic. Additionally, Pew’s data suggests that there is a big generational divide on whether language is very important for identity in most countries. In America, that shift is especially pronounced: While 81 percent of those age 50 or older say language is very important to national identity, only 58 percent of those age 18 to 34 agree.

Thanks, Eric! [N.b.: Retitled because I discovered I already had a post called Language and Identity.]

Comments

  1. So I guess Australians are actually Americans – they speak the same language!

  2. SFReader, I hypothesize that you’ll find that when people in majority-English-speaking countries want to call attention to the fact that they are NOT Americans, they do so with their words and accents. Since I am American-born and speak (for various melting-pot reasons) diamond-pure Standard American English, and I live in Ireland, I find to my amusement that Irish people I converse with unconsciously or self-consciously shift their accents and word choices according to how they feel about my nationality (and their own).

    I suspect the same would likely be true when speaking to Australians generally; I find it to be true when chatting online with an Australian writer friend, but that’s a sample of one.

  3. Blood and heritage define nationhood. Language is one aspect of heritage.

  4. The idea of “blood” being a component of nationality seems to me to be a fairy tale. For one thing, all (or virtually all) nations are basically mongrels; groups comprising millions of individuals cannot possibly be said to be genetically homogeneous and distinct from all others. Second, genealogy is exponential, such that all individuals have countless millions of ancestors. National narratives of “blood ties” consist of ignoring all genealogical/ethnic components which the nationalists in question find inconvenient.

  5. I developed my personal definition of nationality as follows: nation is essentially a marriage group where its members are more likely to marry within the group than outside of it.

    It follows from this definition that there are some groups in America which actually don’t belong in “American nationality” – black Americans aren’t part of it, but Asian Americans are (I’ve read that over half of Asian American women marry white Americans).

  6. Nation is a language with an army and a navy.

  7. J.W. Brewer says:

    On the proposed endogamy test, it is probably true that a higher percentage of black Americans marry non-black Americans than marry non-American blacks, which seems like it ought to suffice. But to the extent one can have a nation that is not entirely ethnically homogeneous, the endogamy test does not seem a particularly appropriate one — with all due allowance for the fact that “nationality” in the post-Soviet parts of the world which I infer SFReader grew up in often translates to “ethnicity” rather than “nationality” in a western, or at least American, sense.

    There is a distinct subset of white Americans who when asked by the Census Bureau busybodies about their ethnic or national-origin identity simply say they are “American.” (They are typically of predominantly British, and often significantly Scotch-Irish, ancestry and are especially common in the Appalachians. That there are other Americans of predominantly long-ago-British-immigrant ancestry such as myself who would not answer the Census question the same way doesn’t mean we aren’t equally American-in-an-ethnic-sense. But it would be declasse, for reasons perhaps hard to explain to a non-American, to focus on that point to the extent of suggesting that our fellow Americans with a coherent other-than-American ethnic identity are for that reason not fully American.)

  8. J.W. Brewer says:

    BTW, here is the Pew study: http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/02/01/what-it-takes-to-truly-be-one-of-us/. Not sure why anyone should care. There are coming on 200 nation-states in the world, and the sample of 14 here is not a representative cross-section and no explanation is given (at least none that I saw in a quick scan) for why the particular 14 were selected.

  9. SFReader, did you try your definition on something sufficiently large that is clearly not a nation/ethnicity. Like Moscow or NYC?

  10. -Like Moscow or NYC?

    Have you lived in Moscow? I spent there a quarter of my life and probably could count as a Muscovite.

    And I am pretty sure that Muscovites are very unlikely to marry other Muscovites.

    Most of my male classmates were snatched by ambitious provincial beauties eager to get Moscow propiska. Quite a few of them were from the Ukraine actually.

  11. Actually it’s small towns and isolated settlements, not big cities which tend to drop out of the national marriage group due to extreme endogamy, which potentially could lead to formation of new ethnic groups.

    Fortunately this problem is easily dealt with by economic development – build more roads, make cars accessible, get these backward types watch some TV and sooner or later the young will move away from this backwater to Chicago or Atlanta.

  12. It’s hard to take this at face value. Which isn’t to needlessly cast doubt on the survey per se. The question is: what do people mean when they agree with pollsters that “speaking the same language” is sufficient qualification for membership in the national community? You don’t have to be too cynical or pessimistic to imagine it’s basically a proxy for shared culture and shared beliefs.

    I’m not implying there’s a “social desirability bias” at work skewing the results. But how many people ever have that much experience interacting with fluent, even eloquent L2 speakers of their native tongue? (The privileges of the Hattery!) *Especially* because we’ve moved beyond blood=nationhood nowadays, most people probably experience “sounds like me” as the factor coordinating most reliably with “feels like part of my community/tribe.” But I bet “sounds like me” means something very different to linguaphiles frequenting these august halls than it does to many/most of the survey respondents.

  13. I remember a long bus ride in Sydney when I had to listen to boring chatter of three Australian teenagers sitting behind me. When the bus stopped, I was startled – these teens speaking with perfect broad Australian accent turned out to be Asian – Vietnamese I assume.

    I wonder whether white Australians really accept them as “one of us”, even though they definitely pass the “sounds like me” test.

  14. @SFReader:

    And I am pretty sure that Muscovites are very unlikely to marry other Muscovites.
    Most of my male classmates were snatched by ambitious provincial beauties eager to get Moscow propiska. Quite a few of them were from the Ukraine actually.

    It’s the other way round in my experience, or should I say, within my social circle. The bugbear of the provincial (especially Ukrainian/Southern Russian) gold digger with an atrocious accent must have scared my schoolmates into safer couplings. If I were to divide the 30- to 50-year-old Muscovites I know in two groups – the “old,” “natural-born” Muscovites and the “new” ones, in Moscow since college or internat – in-group marriage would be the rule.

    For cultural eligibility purposes, major cities like St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, as well as research towns such as Obninsk and Sarov (Arzamas-16), are generally considered equivalent to Moscow.

  15. Brazilians def don’t care about blood or birth, and I’m not too sure we care a lot about language either.

    When I think of an immigrant who’s already completely abrasileirado (Brazilianized), what comes to mind is mostly being used to living here, liking it here, and absorbing a few important cultural traits, such as a healthy disregard for rules and formality. Language is expected but not crucial; no one would think of questioning the Brazilianess of our German- or Ukrainian-speaking enclaves in the south.

  16. January First-of-May says:

    For what it’s worth, one of my parents was born in Moscow, to parents who were also born in Moscow, while the other one came here for university, from what is now in another country (not Ukraine), to parents born in what is now yet another country (also not Ukraine).

    I don’t think I know many other people who married someone from another city, but I probably just haven’t really asked anyone – and in fact I highly suspect that many others don’t know that about my parents either (it helps that there’s not much of an accent – there are some slight differences in Moscow-specific dialectal words, but they don’t come up all that often).

  17. David Marjanović says:

    Blood and heritage define nationhood.

    “Ethnicity is not fate but goal”, says a book on the Migration Period.

    I’ve witnessed the tail-end of the decades-long debate on whether Austria is a nation. It faded out when the very concept of patriotism faded out and people answered the question simply by “that’s what it says in my passport, duh”.

  18. The idea of “blood” being a component of nationality seems to me to be a fairy tale.

    Of course, but we humans love our fairy tales.

    the very concept of patriotism faded out and people answered the question simply by “that’s what it says in my passport, duh”.

    A consummation devoutly to be wished!

  19. Greg Pandatshang says:

    “Ethnicity is not fate but goal”, says a book on the Migration Period.

    I had the general impression that this approach to Migration Period ethnicity was being walked back. Mayhap the sentiment that “Ethnicity is not fate but goal” will prove to be more goal than fate.

    The idea of “blood” being a component of nationality seems to me to be a fairy tale.

    Really? Negligible correlation between nation and ancestry? That doesn’t seem to be what 23andme advises us. You’d at least make an exception for the Japanese, perhaps?

    For one thing, all (or virtually all) nations are basically mongrels; groups comprising millions of individuals cannot possibly be said to be genetically homogeneous and distinct from all others. Second, genealogy is exponential, such that all individuals have countless millions of ancestors.

    Not millions of randomly selected ancestors, though. People in the old days didn’t usually move around that much. Note that 40 generations (roughly 700 to 1200 years) ago, I should have about 1 trillion ancestors. Naturally, this means that there’s a lot of inbreeding once you go back beyond several generations, so not only are the ancestors not randomly selected, a lot of it is the same individuals filling many branches of the tree.

    “homogeneous and distinct from all others” is a pretty high bar to set. Nations don’t really have languages that are homegeneous and distinct from all others, either.

    I’ve witnessed the tail-end of the decades-long debate on whether Austria is a nation. It faded out when the very concept of patriotism faded out and people answered the question simply by “that’s what it says in my passport, duh”.

    That’d be a no, then, right? Nations motivate. “Meh, a passport …” doesn’t sound like much of a motivation. I can easily see how we might be better off without that sort of motivation. I suppose the question, then, is what motivations people will have instead.

  20. It gets a bit complicated in the UK, where everyone who is a citizen is formally British and that’s what it says in the passport. It’s a useful bucket to put everyone in – born, naturalised, whatever. Obviously a lot of people feel strongly English, Scottish, Welsh (Irish/Northern Irish is more contentious) (not to mention people of Pakistani, Caribbean or Nigerian background), but there’s no formal recognition of all that. So in the Scottish independence referendum, English people like JK Rowling could vote as she is resident in Scotland, but top-famous Scot Sean Connery could not because he isn’t.

    I feel British (passport) and English (language and heritage) though I was born in Lebanon, to British (and indeed English) parents who happened to be living there for 15 years. I have no idea how far back UKness goes generationally; I never met any of my grandparents, though I think they were all British, and don’t know anything at all about any great grandparent save one, who went to the same secondary school I did in York in 1859-61, about 110 years before my time there.

    It’s interesting seeing the celebrity genealogy exploration TV programme “Who Do You Think You Are?”. Lots of people have all sorts of backgrounds… JK Rowling has some French ancestry, science presenter Liz Bonnin and chef Ainsley Harriott (may not be known outside the UK!) both found they had both slave and slave-owner ancestry in the West Indies. Impressionist Alistair MacGowan found he was part Indian. Even people like Stephen Fry, who sounds like he has come from 1000-years of English oak, tweeds and bulldog stock, and whose language docco series Fry’s English Delight is now back on Radio 4, turns out to have grandparents on his mother’s side who were Hungarian (pa) and Austrian (ma) Jews.

    A former flatmate of mine was born in Alexandria (Egypt) and had a Syrian Arab mother; despite the fact his father’s family had lived in Egypt a few generations, they were still always considered Greek and my mate is unequivocally Greek… he speaks several languages, but Arabic is not one of them.

  21. It gets a bit complicated in the UK

    I’m currently reading Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, which is very relevant to what you’re talking about (and a splendid novel to boot — she’s a hell of a writer).

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    So if Austrianness fades, what fills the vacuum? A higher-level sense of Europeanness (Europitude)? What are the indicia of that identity? A common language? (More likely to be ESL than Esperanto, I suppose.) Something else? Or does Austrianness endure but gets detached from “patriotism” in a 19th-or-20th-century-nation-state sense and is thus a sense of belonging and group identity not associated with a specific army and navy?

  23. How about just being a human being, living where you live and hanging out with the people you hang out with? Why does there have to be a Grand Overarching Identity? As far as I can tell, what it mainly does is help your government bully/bait you into going to war with people much like you except they have a different Grand Overarching Identity.

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    Senses of group affiliation seem ubiquitous-to-universal in the anthropological literature. Maybe they’re just a primitive superstition us rational modern people are finally in a position to outgrow. Or maybe they serve deepset human needs and the only question is whether the group-based identities people end up affiliating with will be in practice comparatively benign or comparatively not-so-benign.

  25. Well, I’m a human being and I’ve managed to overcome it, so it’s clearly not a hard-wired biological imperative. I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things that’s hard to eradicate because it’s so useful to ruling groups everywhere.

  26. I couldn’t find their raw data or at least sample sizes to gauge statistical significance and confidence intervals. I suspect that the difference in the relative importance of language in Europe vs. the US will turn out to be statistically insignificant, while the relative importance of Christianity will be significantly different.

  27. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I suppose one could say the same thing about sex: some people aren’t interested in it, so therefore it must not be a hard-wired biological imperative.

    I suspect that groupish emotions predate the state by a lot. Nationalism-as-we-know-it appears to be the repurposing of the same emotions on a vastly larger scale, which maybe does require state backing. On the other hand, one notes the German and Italian unification projects which, to the best of my limited knowledge, bubbled up from the public, sometimes against the interests of existing states.

    Would the groupish emotions operating, like in the past, on a smaller scale instead be healthier for society? That’s far from obvious.

  28. How about just being a human being, living where you live and hanging out with the people you hang out with? Why does there have to be a Grand Overarching Identity?

    Who could object? It certainly doesn’t pick anyone’s pocket or break anyone’s leg if I go about my own business while holding this (or any other) philosophy of life. But doesn’t intellectual honesty encourage us to ask ourselves if such a situation exists not only in proposition, but in fact? We’re all aware of the strong correlation between peaceful cosmopolitanism and imperialism–historically, at least. And I don’t think anyone is prepared to argue that Rome, Istanbul, or Chang’an lacked some Grand Overarching Identity. Indeed, on the contrary, it was precisely the confident dominance of their respective Grand Overarching Identities that allowed diversity and dissent to flourish.

    Now, history isn’t destiny of course, and I’m personally grateful that the architects of the USian constitution weren’t deterred by the fact that both Athens and Rome ended up descending into tyranny. And for all I know (and hope) maybe today we do have new models–however fragile–of non-coercive coexistence to build upon. But I have my doubts, at least about the species of American pluralism I grew up familiar with. When I started living in Japan it got pretty obvious really quick that the cultural tolerance of most Westerners I knew extended right up to and not a whit further than the point where local sensibilities began to conflict with their own in a serious way. I observed not the lack of a Grand Overarching Identity, but (angry) obliviousness to the fact of having a very definite one. And tolerance conditional upon out-group genuflection to one’s own politically, economically, and militarily dominant culture is not a very inspiring sight, to say the least.

    Which is to say that if “being a human being” really isn’t Identity-specific (i.e. the way “being civilized” essentially meant “being Chinese” in imperial China) then maybe we’re getting somewhere. But is it?

  29. Would the groupish emotions operating, like in the past, on a smaller scale instead be healthier for society? That’s far from obvious.

    Only if you consider it far from obvious that occasional fights, even bloody ones, are healthier for society than world wars that kill people by the tens of millions.

  30. Any Pew Research “Study” should be taken with a large grain of salt. As with all surveys, the devil is in how the questions are constructed. Ask “do you think United States citizens should be able to competently speak English” next to “how important is language to national identity” and watch the percentages rise.

  31. Good point.

  32. Chris McG says:

    Or does Austrianness endure but gets detached from “patriotism” in a 19th-or-20th-century-nation-state sense and is thus a sense of belonging and group identity not associated with a specific army and navy?

    What navy?

  33. Ask “do you think United States citizens should be able to competently speak English” next to “how important is language to national identity” and watch the percentages rise.
    Nations being somewhat-mixed melting pots adds complexity. Being “only as different as one’s recent ancestors” frequently qualifies as “self”, but being even more different, as “other”.
    Thus being born in America doesn’t become an important self-nonself distinction, but being born in Asia or Latin America as opposed to Europe probably counts. Being Christian isn’t super important because one’s girlfriend’s granny may have been Jewish, or because the Mexicans are Christian too, but being Protestant or being Muslim could count a lot.

  34. Chris McG, aren’t you familiar with the Royal Swiss Nuclear Submarine Fleet. The strongest in the world.

  35. sample sizes to gauge statistical significance
    Found the sizes (at least a thousand per country, which makes pretty much all reported difference statistically significant). Of course there are some systematic differences in methodologies and in questions (for example, in Poland they asked about Catholic faith as opposed to Christian), but I’m willing to assume that it didn’t make a major impact on the outcomes.

  36. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Well, I think my previous remark got a little too close to the political. Rule 1 of the internet is that non-political forums are pleasanter than any political forum.

  37. Chris McG says:

    D.O., indeed, I worked alongside them during my days as part of the Dutch Mountain Rescue Service.

  38. J.W. Brewer says:

    Captain von Trapp’s navy, of course.

  39. David Eddyshaw says:

    This association of language and nationhood is neither natural nor accidental. The survey simply reflects the enormous success of the nineteenth-century nationalist project to *make* nation and language coincide for ideological reasons by destroying “minority” languages, and by promulgating the toxic falsehood that “blood” is the only valid criterion for statehood, to the point where nowadays otherwise quite rational and pleasant people believe that it is either actually true or ideally should be.

    The PRC is doing it now; Western Europe led the way.
    At the time of the French Revolution, most inhabitants of France did not speak French.

  40. Well, National Languages and Nation-states are certainly very deliberate products with many regrettable effects, but the association of tribe with language seems quite ancient and (alas) natural. We have the expression “shibboleth” for a reason, after all.

  41. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Elessorn:

    Fair point. In my enthusiasm I overstated my case. (It’s never happened before …)

    However, until Nationalism was invented, the untroubled assumption that political entitities should coincide with linguistic entities seems to have worked the more strongly the *smaller* the entity in question was.

    Where I lived in Ghana, the attitude you rightly point out was (thinking about it) very evident; ethnic groups most definitely claim that they speak different languages if they feel they are ethnically distinct, even when a foreigner might feel that these languages are remarkably similar, and vice versa: fairly divergent forms of speech are regarded as all one language if the speakers all identify as a unity. But these are groups of a few hundred thousand speakers; with Hausa, spoken by many millions, there is no feeling that all Hausa-speakers are a single ethnic group (despite the fact that most L1 speakers do in fact share a lot of history and culture.)

    However, on further reflection, I think that it’s fairly easy to find examples of both: big multiethnic empires whose dominant groups had no particular attachment to any one language for all (like the Achaemenid Persians or the Ottomans), and equally big empires whose self-image was indeed tied up with one particular culture and language (like China.) So I’m (mostly) wrong.

  42. Greg: It’s not that we never talk politics: how else would it be known to the Hattics that Steve is an anarchist and I’m a civic nationalist? It’s that we have a refreshing absence of fanaticism on any subject. The few fanatics who get involved with LH either end up taking themselves out quietly or spectacularly, or at worst end up under the Bone-Hammer, which I think has happened to about five people since 2002.

  43. It’s that we have a refreshing absence of fanaticism on any subject.

    Well, except maybe descriptivism. And in my case the Mets.

  44. I completely understand the enthusiasm! I’m part of the choir being preached to, after all. We dour philologists only hope the world understands our professsional wet-blanketism.

    That’s a really interesting comparison to think about– the Achaemenids vs. the Chinese. Empire as plunderfield in the Sargon of Akkad model is weirdly absent from Chinese statecraft. Not that plunder is absent, mind you, just that conquered territory (viz. garrisoned territory like Turfan, etc.) is supposed to “become” part of the conquering power. As if the Romans had kept expanding “Latium” until it included everything from Greece to Mauritania and we had to really strain to remember that it used to refer to one patch of West Italian sea-coast.

    Maybe in some way the Chinese state resembles the latter group you mention from Ghana, speaking diverse languages but insisting otherwise.

  45. Well, I think my previous remark got a little too close to the political. Rule 1 of the internet is that non-political forums are pleasanter than any political forum.

    The first rule of language and identity is, you don’t talk about language and identity.

  46. David Marjanović says:

    Well, I think my previous remark got a little too close to the political. Rule 1 of the internet is that non-political forums are pleasanter than any political forum.

    I’m actually happy to have a more or less philosophical, abstract discussion about this topic in an apolitical place.

    “that’s what it says in my passport, duh”.

    That’d be a no, then, right?

    It’s an unambiguous “yes, but that’s too obvious, too trivial and too unimportant to mention; do you seriously care?”.

    🙂

    Nations motivate

    That’s nationalism, invented in western Europe (perhaps specifically in the “eternal” conflict of France and “Germany”) in the 18th century, exported to lots of places, now going particularly strong in China while fading out in western Europe again. It’s a fad.

    So if Austrianness fades, what fills the vacuum? A higher-level sense of Europeanness (Europitude)?

    I didn’t say Austrianness fades, and I didn’t say there’s a vacuum. 🙂 What has faded is the idea that countries are important.

    For instance, it’s easy to fear & loathe a whole (real or imagined) group of people without considering onself part of another group that one loves. Xenophobia thrives in Austria – the xenophobic party is around 30 % in the polls and sometimes the strongest party there; of course much of this is because it’s a protest party and because the Grand Coalition (Austria’s natural state, alas) is so deathly boring, but it still means people don’t mind the xenophobia even if they aren’t primarily motivated by it.

    A sense of being European does indeed exist; it surfaces in cultural contrast to the US and in rhetoric-political contrast to Turkey. The sense of being Austrian surfaces in contrast to Germany. Everyone these days has nested identities, some but not all of which are tied to nested geographic entities. Nationalism is the idea that, of all these identities, the nation is (at least) much more important than all others.

    On the other hand, one notes the German and Italian unification projects which, to the best of my limited knowledge, bubbled up from the public, sometimes against the interests of existing states.

    Nationalism was a very popular idea for a century or two.

    Captain von Trapp’s navy, of course.

    Austria, even more so than Germany, has been rebooted. Approximately nobody interprets the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as “us”. There are still streets and squares named for its admirals and for the places where they fought their victorious battles, but the few people who know what their names stand for don’t consider their victories “our” victories, neither consciously nor unconsciously. For many purposes, history begins in… not even in 1918, but in 1945.

    It’s not unlike what Atatürk tried to do with Turkey. Have you read his speech about Gallipoli?

    On top of this, of course, Austria has never been a Romantic nation-state. Before 1918 there was this multiethnic monarchy that existed for medieval reasons (the House of Habsburg had inherited random tracts of land, one after another, without regard for blood or language or whatever); from 1918 to 1934 there was l’Autriche, c’est ce qui reste (as allegedly uttered during the making of the treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye, equivalent to Trianon for Germany), populated mostly by people who thought they were Germans but were explicitly forbidden from joining Germany; from 1934 to 1938, there was “Austrofascism”, actually fascism very close to the original, which tried to create an Austrian identity as “the better Germany” (more Catholic, mostly) and ended in a surrender “in order not to spill German blood”; from 1938 to 1945, there was the culture shock of exposure to real Germans; from 1945 to the late 80s or so, there was a sense of emptiness and uncertainty along the lines of “we definitely aren’t Germans, but that still doesn’t make Austria a Romantic nation-state, so WTF are we? Are we, like, anything at all?”, culminating (in the late 60s, IIRC) in the short-lived replacement of “German” by “language of instruction” on school reports for a few years, and finally resolved around the early 90s by the idea that the question was silly to begin with.

    So, Austrian patriotism in the Second Republic ( = since 1945) has been limited to football. Given the fact that the Austrian national team has just kept losing throughout this time (unlike, funnily enough, in the First Republic), Austrian football patriotism consists mostly of being against the German team, no matter who they’re playing against.

    German football patriotism has been existing since 2006, when the national team won (“the summer fairytale”) and the Germans saw that football patriotism was harmless after all. The Social Democratic party youth has a tradition of being against the national team, but by now that’s just an in-joke anymore. In the last few years it has, apparently, even become sort of OK for Austrians to be fans of the German national team.

  47. J.W. Brewer says:

    Consider, however, parts of the world like Latin America or the Middle East where patriotism and/or “national identity” require getting the inhabitants of Spanish-speaking (or Arabic-speaking) country A to feel different from (and superior to, resentful of, etc etc) the inhabitants of neighboring countries B, C, and D all of whom speak more or less the same language that is predominant in A. No doubt the A’s can deprecate the funny accents of the B’s, but it’s still not the same as the 19th century European notion of 1 language = 1 nation-state.

  48. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Elessorn:

    One thing that occurs to me about the group I had in mind (the Kusaasi, speakers of the coolest language ever) is that it’s not actually easy to come up with *non-linguistic* cultural distinctives which set them apart from their neighbours (though as a caveat, I must admit this might just reflect my own ignorance; I’m no anthropologist.) The entire zone shares a very great deal in terms of traditional lifestyle, customs, dress, religion etc, so if you’re casting about for something which marks your in-group as being *your* in-group, language is perhaps what you end up with by default.

    The traditional Chinese idea seems very different: to bring Civilisation (indissolubly linked to the Chinese language) to the Barbarians. Analogues that immediately spring to mind are the ancient Greeks and the modern (well, almost-modern, colonial) French. The Greeks actually *didn’t* think they were all of the same “blood”; and (at its best, anyway) the République has never regarded genetics as being a prerequisite for Frenchness; so although language and culture were a part of the same package, there wasn’t the third pillar of modern racist nationalism there.

    I don’t know if the ancient Chinese thought that genetic origin was a necessity for being Chinese, or that you could *become* completely Chinese by adopting the language and culture. I suspect the idea changed over time; there was a thought-provoking article in the Economist lately on the PRCs insistence on “blood” as the definition of Sinicity, with a fairly clear implication that this was something historically innovative.

  49. J.W. Brewer says:

    Should have added – soccer rivalries are an excellent way to foment conflict between neighboring nation-states that can’t distinguish themselves from each other linguistically. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_War

  50. David Marjanović says:

    parts of the world like Latin America or the Middle East

    Conversely, Switzerland.

    The Americans and the Swiss are about the last people in the West who’ll tell you they’re proud of their citizenship before they even think about it.

  51. It’s a fad.

    My feeling exactly!

  52. Languages are created by persistent borders which separate speakers of different dialects from each other. And persistent borders are usually created by states (or some form of tribal military alliance).

    Persistent borders also create group identities (people beyond the wall are barbarians, they are not like us!)

    Often these borders get erased (usually by conquering imperial power) and already distinct groups and languages end up on the same side of a border, restarting processes of convergence and assimilation.

    That’s how things worked so far.

  53. Languages are created by persistent borders which separate speakers of different dialects from each other. And persistent borders are usually created by states (or some form of tribal military alliance).

    How can you possibly know how languages were created before there were either records or states?

  54. By inference from historical record, of course. Actualism principle and all that

    https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Historical_Geology/Actualism#Actualism_as_a_methodological_principle

  55. The Americans and the Swiss are about the last people in the West who’ll tell you they’re proud of their citizenship before they even think about it.

    Canadians are quieter about it, because they don’t want to be mistaken for Yanks. But when someone asked on Quora the other day why Canada did so little in WWII, there was a huge outpouring of patriotic Canadian responses about Juno Beach and the Battle of Britain and Canada as a giant training camp and POW camp and lots of other things. (It turned out that the asker was himself a Canadian teenager — schools these days!)

  56. How can you possibly know how languages were created before there were either records or states?

    There’s a case to be made that before records and states there are no languages as we know them, only dialect continua.

  57. Canadians are quite nationalistic (even approaching Korean levels of nationalistic absurdity) judging by books like these

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51kZIJY0roL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

  58. January First-of-May says:

    Rule 1 of the internet is that non-political forums are pleasanter than any political forum.

    Just this last evening, pretty much simultaneously to the post I’m quoting (maybe an hour later), I took part in a discussion on another (unrelated, mostly writing-based) forum which suddenly (pretty much out of the blue from the perspective of anyone who wasn’t involved with the particularly problematic trolls) introduced a rule completely banning discussion of politics.

    After some discussion they clarified that they meant either current real-life politics (i.e. mostly Trump) or obvious fictional references to them (stuff like South Park, presumably), and that there was no problem (except the usual rules against non-civil discussion) talking about anything that happened last century or earlier (up to and including the Bill Clinton presidency), or about Senator Kinsey or whatever.
    There was still the problem of what to do if the recent politics turned up as a natural subject of discussion in a “like reality unless noted” setting such as Harry Potter, however.

  59. Why do you find the article’s conclusion heartening?

    It seems to me that what you want (of course please correct me if I’m wrong) is for people not to view nationality as important; but that’s not at all the same thing as not viewing language as important to nationality. We can view something as an important criterion for something else — say, that containing chlorophyll is an important criterion for being a plant — without actually regarding that something else as important. And total war on the basis of “they’re not Americans because they consider themselves ____ instead” would be no less deadly than total war on the basis of “they’re not Americans because they don’t speak English”.

  60. “Additionally, Pew’s data suggests that there is a big generational divide on whether language is very important for identity in most countries. In America, that shift is especially pronounced: While 81 percent of those age 50 or older say language is very important to national identity, only 58 percent of those age 18 to 34 agree.”

    Interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

    I’m betting this is an effect with age, rather than with birth year. Is it a type of back-in-my-dayism? Do people surveyed have a perception that English was more dominant in their youth than it was?

    I’m pretty sure there’s an age effect for some other types of language enforcement, like usage peeving, understandable when usage changes out from under you.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    There’s a case to be made that before records and states there are no languages as we know them, only dialect continua.

    Dialect continua can only exist as long as everyone stays put and maintains communication. Migrations disrupt that, as does diminished communication due to economic, religious or whatever reasons.

  62. It seems to me that what you want (of course please correct me if I’m wrong) is for people not to view nationality as important; but that’s not at all the same thing as not viewing language as important to nationality.

    True, but what I really want is for people to stop finding artificial ways to divide themselves from other people so they don’t have to bother about those people’s problems (and, should the need arise, so they can loot/enslave/kill them without compunction), and I deprecate the use of both language and nationality to that end. It’s fine to take pleasure in your own language (or, for that matter, in the place you grew up), but I hope we can stop making the leap to “…and anybody who doesn’t talk the way I do is wrong.” (Or, to quote the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, “he can’t be a man, ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me.”)

  63. There’s a case to be made that before records and states there are no languages as we know them, only dialect continua.

    Arguably the thing that is added to a dialect continuum to make it ‘a’ language is a standardized variety — and those can arise through shared transmission of poems without necessarily involving centralized record-keeping or government. All it needs is peripatetic bards.

    I don’t think all bronze-age Greeks (as we understand them) saw themselves as part of something even remotely resembling a modern nation at the time when the Iliad was shaped, but I think there’s a good chance they agreed it was in ‘their’ language.

  64. ə de vivre says:

    There’s a case to be made that before records and states there are no languages as we know them, only dialect continua.

    Do you need records or states or both? As Lars points out, all you need is for there to be some aspect of shared identity that reaches beyond the any one dialects borders to get imagined linguistic unity. It makes me think of the Kyrgyz Manas epic, that had considerable currency across Kyrgyz speakers even before the Soviets decided that they were a nation that needed a state.

  65. Heinrich R. Blutvergieben says:

    “all individuals have countless millions of ancestors”
    Dubious. That depends on whether you count non-humans as ancestors, where you set the threshold, and, last but not least, we may have many individuals featuring several times in our family tree, reducing the actual number of ancestors from its potential number, most pronouncedly in populations that have gone through a bottleneck, I’d expect.

  66. David Eddyshaw says:

    Furthermore, from most of your ancestors, you have inherited no genes at all.

    https://gcbias.org/2013/11/04/how-much-of-your-genome-do-you-inherit-from-a-particular-ancestor/

  67. I had an Uncle Gene from whom I inherited no genes, because he was the husband of my father’s sister.

  68. David Eddyshaw says:

    NANKI-POO: But how good of you (for I see that you are a nobleman of the highest rank) to condescend to tell all this to me, a mere strolling minstrel!

    POOH-BAH: Don’t mention it. I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable.

  69. German football patriotism has been existing since 2006, when the national team won (“the summer fairytale”) and the Germans saw that football patriotism was harmless after all.
    German football patriotism exists much longer – rooting for the national team was the only reletively widely socially acceptable form of national pride for most of post-war period. The key moment here was winning the World Cup in 1954 (the “Miracle of Bern”). What changed in 2006 is that flag-waving at football games and football nationalism used to be a guilty pleasure and something more intellectual people looked down upon, but people stopped having complexes about it in 2006.

  70. Greg Pandatshang says:

    It’s an unambiguous “yes, but that’s too obvious, too trivial and too unimportant to mention; do you seriously care?”.

    I guess it’s pointless to try to get a sense of what people think about “nation” without some kind of working definition of what a nation is.

    If a nation is simply the body of people who are citizens of a particular state, then that is extremely easy to define. It makes the study that OP described completely irrelevant. It also defines away any question of natonal self-determination, e.g., the Tibetan national question: obviously, the Tibetans are all citizens of China, case closed.

  71. In the sedentary pre-agriculturalists like Ket, there wouldn’t have been much room for dialect continua, because these people lived in very specific places, very far apart, for a very long time (places like sea inlets or river rapids where there was singularly good access to fish). Possibly desert oases are in the same category. Most of the ancient coastlines are submerged now, anyway, so it’s difficult to gauge how much the pre-agriculturalist human culture depended on such stable, immovable, widely separated groups.

  72. Marja Erwin says:

    Does this consider dog protection?

    I sometimes get emails asking me to sign some petition against a Chinese festival because *they eat dogs there*.

    I suspect dog protection might be an important, if un-acknowledged, aspect of identity.

  73. Yes, sometimes dialect continua break up for geographical reasons, like David M’s creatures that were found in the dry Mediterranean basin and, when the basin filled with seawater, were instantly (in geological time) split into separate species on the various islands.

    Roger Blench just posted a paper about three languages of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India, Idu, Tawra, and Kman. Tawra-speakers and Kman-speakers are fully integrated into a single culture, and which language you speak is unimportant or even situational: for example, Kman-speaking shamans typically chant in Tawra, not Kman. The languages are almost completely different in vocabulary and morphosyntax: only typological factors and the words for ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘eye’, ‘sun’, and a few more suggest that they are Tibeto-Burman.

    On the other hand, Tawra and Idu, which are on opposite sides of a deep cultural divide, are very similar languages, with a kind of similarity that is not very familiar to historical linguists. Most words are the same or almost the same, but no regular sound laws can be constructed between them. What is more, some (but not all) of the “basic vocabulary” is utterly different: body parts are completely unrelated, as ares the words for ‘9’, though the words for ‘1-8’ are resemblant. There are a few resemblant basic verbs, but most are unrelated. Morphological elements are also mixed: some resemblant, some unrelated, with no obvious pattern. So we have massive and recent borrowing from one to the other.

  74. Good heavens! What a paradise (if a thorny one) for a historical linguist!

  75. David Marjanović says:

    It also defines away any question of natonal self-determination, e.g., the Tibetan national question: obviously, the Tibetans are all citizens of China, case closed.

    Ah, here we run into terminology issues! The right of nations to self-determination is traditionally rendered in German as das Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker – of peoples, of ethnic groups, not necessarily of nations.

    There has never been a debate on whether there’s an Austrian people. The answer has always been an uncontested “no”, to the best of my knowledge. It has only changed from “no, we’re part of the German people” to “no, we don’t belong to any people, and that’s not actually relevant to anything”. (…Well, it does lead to the mindset where “race” is something Americans have when they’re not white.) The word has basically gone the way of “tribe”.

  76. David Marjanović says:

    The League of Nations, not coincidentally, was likewise Völkerbund. Even the Esperantists accepted the view that ethnicity was fundamental and important: until it was torn down and rebuilt about 10 years ago, the train station of Linz had some signage advertizing for a local Esperanto association which said JEDEM VOLKE SEINE SPRACHE – DER MENSCHHEIT ESPERANTO “to each people its language – to (hu)mankind E-o”.

  77. Re: Kusaasi

    Google Street View for Ghana is out just now. Ghana looks like very civilized place, northern Ghana too, but a bit dusty for some reason. Winds from Sahara?

  78. So, Austrian patriotism in the Second Republic ( = since 1945) has been limited to football.

    I have to disagree. Alpine skiing is the focus of Austrian patriotism, especially west of Vienna.

  79. The Americans and the Swiss are about the last people in the West who’ll tell you they’re proud of their citizenship before they even think about it.

    Norwegians?

  80. David Eddyshaw says:

    @SFReader:

    In the north it rains less than half the year, so there’s plenty of time for it to get dusty. There is indeed a wind from the Sahara, a seasonal thing called the Harmattan. It gets relatively cool in mid-dry season in December-January largely because the amount of dust the Harmattan brings cuts down sunlight. Visibility over distances goes way down. Dust accumulates all over the place indoors.

    Northern Ghana is much poorer than the south. It’s very different culturally and linguistically too, and more diverse. Insofar as foreigners have an image of a typical Ghanaian, they’re usually thinking of the (southern) Ashanti, who have a vibrant and very distinctive culture which is very much alive and well. Black Americans like to identify with it, unhistorically but understandably.

    Civilised, certainly. The traditional dominant political entities in the north were quasi-feudal military kingdoms well enough organised to see off the Jihadists of the latter eighteenth century. Their records go back centuries.
    The Kusaasi themselves are however basically irreconcilables who never allowed themselves to be finally incorporated into the system.

    Civilised, too, in the sense that wandering around even big cities at night by yourself is no more hazardous than doing so in Britain. The north really only has one city, though, Tamale. Most northerners are farmers and live in the countryside.

  81. I can’t help finding it weird that the survey doesn’t seem to ask whether actually living in the country is an important factor. While I don’t think I’ll ever cease to identify as American, I don’t think I’m *as* American at this point as, say, a friend of mine who moved to the US just a few years before I moved abroad. Although I try to stay connected, and the internet has made that much easier, there are probably a thousand little cultural references that he would get and I wouldn’t. My accent means that I’ll never be considered Italian by anyone, including myself, even once I become a citizen (whereas I think most people here, except for out-and-out racists, consider second-generation “immigrants” with a regional accent to be Italian: regional identity is the ultimate proof of Italian identity). But that’s ok, and everyday interactions with strangers are actually more awkward in some ways in the US, where the degree of foreignness that inevitably comes with an entire adult life spent abroad can seem bizarre and inexplicable because of my accent.

  82. David Marjanović says:

    That’s entirely true about alpine skiing.

    Norwegians? No idea.

  83. It’s true of the sample of Norwegians that I know, but that’s a small sample.

  84. Ja vi elsker!

  85. ə de vivre says:

    I wonder if it’s a mistake to think of ‘language’ v. ‘dialect continuum’ as something that’s objectively observable, and go looking for places where homogeneous language communities have arrived without state intervention. After all, even modern states haven’t managed to impose true linguistic homogeneity. It seems that languages are more like syllables: you can’t see them directly, but people still act like they’re there.

    Ah, here we run into terminology issues! The right of nations to self-determination is traditionally rendered in German as das Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker – of peoples, of ethnic groups, not necessarily of nations.

    Yeah, English gets confusing because common usage has ‘nation’ as a quasi-synonym of ‘state’, whereas the social sciences tend to keep them distinct, defining ‘nation’ as a people with aspirations (realized or not) to statehood. So while national self-determination refers to nation-people, the League of Nations refers to nation-state, probably because for politicians in the early 20th century, a 1:1 ratio of nations to states was seen as the natural way of things.

    The ambiguity does let you plaster over some thorny issues with ambiguous language. The Quebec government defines the province as une nation au sein d’un Canada uni, and Quebec City as la capitale nationale. Federal politics in Quebec often reminds me of Christian Christological debates. I’m waiting for someone to define Canada as a Hypostatic union.

  86. Trond Engen says:

    Norwegians?

    Here!

    True. We are bursting with pride in our norwegitude. It’s traditionally a sort of nationalism that tends towards civic — we love our nature and our dialects and wear bunad for National Day, and we’re ready to explain the benefits of our open and inclusive society to any passer-by who comes passing-by — but the limits of civicity are blurry, and it easily spills over into a superiority complex. Since we’re always right, we’re ready to defend vigorously whichever idea we find to be defining for us as a nation. Ahab help those who came within hearing distance of our righteous monologues when the rest og the world tried to stop our whaling in the nineties.

  87. Von Bladet of the Desert, NM says:

    A nmenomic I choose to (falsely) attribute to WH Auden may help unclarify things:

    I admit, not without trepidation,
    preferring the state to the nation.
    Let those who cannot agree berate
    me with the merits of nation over state.
    But let’s agree that one thing’s no joke –
    when the shouty sort take on about “the folk”.

  88. Utterly tangential, but I’m always unsure how to read a poem aloud when it breaks up an intonational group between lines – e.g. [bəˈɹeɪʔmi].

  89. There has never been a debate on whether there’s an Austrian people. The answer has always been an uncontested “no”, to the best of my knowledge. It has only changed from “no, we’re part of the German people” to “no, we don’t belong to any people, and that’s not actually relevant to anything”.

    Not directly linked, but I used to work with a German (in Germany) who described that hated Austrians partly because that was the only nationality he could hate with a clear conscience about any racism. (Call centre job, so a certain amount of exposure to the sort of Austrians who were in the position of needing to buy satellite DSL, with the uploads done over a 56k modem, and the associated software problems you would expect with a proprietary Windows implementation to talk to a) the telephone ISP and b) the satellite receiver.)

  90. Von Bladet of the Desert, NM says:

    Utterly tangential, but I’m always unsure how to read a poem aloud when it breaks up an intonational group between lines

    I favour ignoring the sense for a heavy-handed emphasis on the rhyme with the enjambment, but the author is after all dead.

    Not directly linked, but I used to work with a German (in Germany) who described that hated Austrians partly because that was the only nationality he could hate with a clear conscience about any racism.

    As I lately remarked in correspondence to the late Charles Olson (no relation),

    My wife’s father, having acquired a British son-in-law
    and (by another child)

    a German daughter-in-law
    took to affecting an extravagant distaste

    for the French.

  91. David Marjanović says:

    I’m always unsure how to read a poem aloud when it breaks up an intonational group between lines

    Me too.

  92. In general, when I see enjambment, I assume that the lines are to be read without regard to line endings, whereas when the lines are end-stopped, line breaks should be marked in the reading. The former technique is associated with fixed-form verse, the latter with variable-length lines, although the meaning of “variable-length” depends on the form: the Germanic alliterative line is normallly enjambed even though the number of syllables per line is variable, because the number of stresses per line is fixed. What makes Desdemona’s poem above difficult is the combination of variable-length lines (as far as I can tell) with enjambment.

    I first read Charles Olson in college, but I always had strange expectations of him based on his name. I tended to conflate him with both Charles Elder, the director of the computer center at CCNY while I was studying and my mother was teaching there, and Elder Olson, my mother’s Doktorvater at Chicago and also a poet. She herself frequently referred to Charles Elder as Elder Olson without noticing it.

  93. Trond Engen says:

    The Norwegian author and essayist Odd Eidem (IIRC) once suggested to simplify the literary canon by merging easily conflatable authors, e.g. Henrik Wergeland and Herman Wildenwey, and Charles Dickens and Dicken Zwilgmeyer.

  94. I quoted Olson in the early days of LH and recommended a documentary about him here (one comment each).

  95. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, and I’m really, really envious of von Bladet’s direct line to Dead Poets (no relation).

  96. The Americans and the Swiss are about the last people in the West who’ll tell you they’re proud of their citizenship before they even think about it.

    A neatly ambiguous sentence: does this mean no one else will do so, or everyone else will do it first? (I know which one is meant, of course — though it’s not true of most Americans I know these days — but I don’t recall coming across this type before.)

  97. In old French movie there was a truck driver who hated Belgians and women (presumably because of their driving manners). Belgians can be recognized by license plates, but with women you can’t easily tell nowadays with clothes they wear.

  98. David Eddyshaw says:

    I have long since concluded that people of any nationality may be Belgian Drivers, and that most Belgian drivers are not in fact Belgian Drivers. Number plates are thus an unreliable diagnostic.

    Women are substantially less likely to be Belgian Drivers than men are. Insurance companies will all readily confirm this chastening fact.

    The situation is perhaps parallel to the melancholy reality that while the English actually invented all sensible team sports involving balls, they are now much worse at them than anybody else.

  99. Most women drive slower and presumably safer than men, but their parking skills….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiIVhgTAW4k&feature=youtu.be

  100. David Marjanović says:

    they are now much worse at them than anybody else

    Austria is safely forgettable. 🙂

    In old French movie there was a truck driver who hated Belgians and women

    He’s French and doesn’t mention département 13 (Bouches-du-Rhône)? He must be from there himself! *shudder*

    (The trick is that, in Marseille, they drive by common sense, not by rules. This works perfectly fine [pers. obs.] as long as the worlds don’t collide.)

  101. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: Most women drive slower and presumably safer than men, but their parking skills….

    I have not had a car or even driven for quite a few years (result of an accident to my right arm), but when I did own a car and drove it just about every day I was often praised for my ability to squeeze into small parking spaces….

  102. You can tell when someone is being bigoted when they single out a particular group in conjunction with some negative behavior. The video is titled “bad parking 80 lvl! girls” (and not just “bad parking”) and commented with the doubling down of “stupid women at the wheel”.

    Are all the drivers actually even women, or did the video compiler just grab random clips of bad driving/parking, and for the ones where the driver is unseen, just say, “bad driving/parking, therefore, the driver must be a woman?”

    Toxic misogyny is everywhere.

  103. I think it’s cultural thing. For some reason, women in Russia and former Soviet Union are extremely bad at driving. There are literally thousands of videos on Youtube which prove that beyond doubt.

    I personally blame it on Russian women’s bad habit of driving while wearing high heels – disastrous outcomes in some of these videos can only be explained by pressing the wrong pedal.

  104. That’s entirely true about alpine skiing. Norwegians? No idea.

    Not Nordic skiing?

  105. Oh, and I’m really, really envious of von Bladet’s direct line to Dead Poets (no relation).

    Dead poets, as Bruce Lee retorted in Enter the Club!, don’t write back. Once you’re over that it’s all gravy.

    What makes Desdemona’s poem above difficult is the combination of variable-length lines (as far as I can tell) with enjambment.

    Well, that’s the Auden in it, innit. Everyone is all Oh! He is a master of traditional form and metre! but it’s rare, to my ear, that he satisfactorily holds down a groove.

    Speaking of dead poets, it is time to cross Tom Raworth off the list of non-members. (I hadn’t even heard of him, but he turns out to be in the transitive closure of my esteem.)

    The poets as Martial quipped, are dying
    faster than they can be discouraged.

    Still, whatever works.

  106. David Marjanović says:

    So I watched the video. The scariest parts clearly involve hitting the gas instead of the brake – and/or failures to get the gearbox to accept the reverse gear.

    The situation at the end, where (around 12:10) two guys discuss if the driver is a woman, involves something completely different: the car’s inability to get out, from a standing start, of the deep trenches flanked by ice plates.

    In Austria, the stereotype has narrowed down from “women are terrible drivers”, which is simply untenable nowadays (now that there are enough women driving around that statistical flukes can’t happen often enough for confirmation bias to kick in), to “women can’t reverse into a parking spot”. Tellingly, that situation is one to be anxious about, and women are still much more comfortable with admitting anxiety than men (…who are… very anxious about admitting to being anxious).

  107. David Eddyshaw says:

    A beloved British stereotype for inconsiderate/incompetent driving is White Van Man.
    Does he have analogues elsewhere?

  108. As far as I can tell the thing about parallel parking is that male drivers are much more likely to invest prestige in being able to use a parking space an inch or two larger than their car, so they practice the skill — whereas female drivers practice the skill of being able to find a larger parking spot. This in turn reflects traditional gender roles and people’s internalized expectations about their own behavior, of course.

    In my experience from when my ex-wife and I drove identical cars, the second strategy is the fastest in most cases.

  109. What is this “driving” of which you speak? I am familiar with being driven, even by the hounds of Hell, but driving, no.

  110. You can tell when someone is being bigoted when they single out a particular group in conjunction with some negative behavior. The video is titled “bad parking 80 lvl! girls” (and not just “bad parking”) and commented with the doubling down of “stupid women at the wheel”. […] Toxic misogyny is everywhere.

    Yes, exactly. Not all those drivers were women, and even if they had been it would have been a bigoted selection from the infinity of bad-driving videos.

    For some reason, women in Russia and former Soviet Union are extremely bad at driving. There are literally thousands of videos on Youtube which prove that beyond doubt.

    I hope you’re joking.

  111. I used to work with a German (in Germany) who described that hated Austrians partly because that was the only nationality he could hate with a clear conscience about any racism.

    Similarly, it’s notorious that white Appalachians are the last people that Americans of the professionally enlightened classes are allowed to make fun of.

  112. Exactly so.

  113. No, unfortunately that’s a fact. Russan insurance companies used to offer significant discounts for female drivers of 8-15%, assuming from Western insurance practice that female drivers would be safer.

    They no longer do that, because actually Russian women proved to be more dangerous than men (and hence more costly for insurance companies). Russian insurance company AlfaStrahovanie found that women drivers are 28% more likely to get into car accidents than men.

    On somewhat brighter note, same study has shown that women drivers mostly cause less serious accidents. (perhaps they drive more slowly and less likely to drink heavily)

  114. David Eddyshaw says:

    I welcome this as yet further evidence that allegedly genetic differences are, in point of fact, culturally determined.
    My status as a male Western driver in no way affects my entirely dispassionate assessment of this issue.

    This also sheds further light on a matter brought to our attention by Hat himself recently. Lou Marchetti’s illustration is evidently intended to represent a typical Russian lady driver. (I note that, inter alia, she is evidently given to texting at inappropriate times.)

  115. David Eddyshaw says:
  116. Similarly, it’s notorious that white Appalachians are the last people that Americans of the professionally enlightened classes are allowed to make fun of.
    On the one hand, city folk have been making fun of country folk way longer than even Barney Google. On the other, Cincinnati has gone so far as to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on Appalachian origin.

  117. I hope you’re joking.
    Ditto. Yet can’t help remembering how I once complimented an American female driver. Back then I was just learning to drive, still being scared of any obstacles within 20 feet of my car. My landlady was an independent landscaping contractor down on her luck, and her only car was a big pickup truck, and she was throwing it around her tiny yard which much roar and great gusto. It’s a forever aesthetically appealing contrast of femininity and raw muscular power. I blurted out something nice in awe. And she wrote a complaint to my employer’s Equal Opportunity Office, insisting that I was hurtfully patronizing, and it’s all because in my backward Russia the chauvinist pigs don’t let women drive.

  118. China seems to have an even bigger problem judging from this video (not for faint-hearted!)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TO1JUR41wA

    Something is very seriously wrong with their system of driving schools.

  119. David Marjanović says:

    That actually looks deliberate, judging from the onlookers, from the man’s behavior before he gets hit, and from the woman’s behavior after.

  120. Yeah, that’s not random “bad driving.”

  121. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Ah, here we run into terminology issues!

    Fair enough, and not surprising. But note that, if one’s goal is to learn what people think about concept X by studying what they have to say about word A such that A denotes X, but then you find out that (for some people) word A actually denotes a related concept Y, now your study isn’t really about concept X anymore … instead it’s semantic/lexicographical research about the uses of word A. Not that there’s anything wrong with lexicography … certainly within LH’s ambit.

  122. Well, there are ways around such things. In one of Smullyan’s anecdotes about imaginary people, he talks about two tribes that speak the same language except that for one barang means ‘circular’ and amat means ‘elliptical’, whereas for the other tribe it’s vice versa. (In NAmE trapezoid and trapezium have their meanings swapped relative to the rest of the world, so this is not absurd.)

    Smullyan describes himself finding two tribesmen arguing about on object that is hard to identify as circular or elliptical by eye alone. They are saying “It is barang!” “No, it is amat!” “Barang, you fool!” “What, are you blind? Amat!” So what can he do to figure out if their disagreement is perceptual or semantic?

    One idea he has is to ask the first person, “Is the object very barang, or only slightly barang?” Depending on his reaction to that remark we may be able to get at the truth.

  123. white Appalachians are the last people that Americans of the professionally enlightened classes are allowed to make fun of.

    I suppose, on TV maybe. Oddly, in my 50 years on the planet living and working among “Americans of the professionally enlightened classes” I have never actually heard anyone mock white Appalachians, or even “rednecks”. I have heard, and continue to hear, plenty of jokes and comments targeting Jews, Blacks, women, Mexicans, gays, female Asian drivers, the French, Irish-Americans, Brooklyn hipsters, Catholic Priests etc. but never Appalachians. Rural white Americans seem to think that the rest of us are mocking them, but the truth is we just don’t give them much thought either way. Maybe that’s worse.

  124. I have never actually heard anyone mock white Appalachians, or even “rednecks”.

    I have, and I respectfully submit that if you’re not part of the targeted community you may not notice such mocking as long as it isn’t so blatant as to trigger your radar. Google “Cletus.”

  125. Since I seem to have started something:

    Cincinnati has gone so far as to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on Appalachian origin

    I grew up/live not that far from Cincinnati, and I have both cousins and Appalachian-activist friends there. The founding community activist Ernie Mynatt was a bit before my time, but he famously used to propose, tongue firmly in cheek, that to get recognition, his community might imitate their ancestors by painting themselves blue. (“Marked category,” get it?)

  126. “I am, in cultural background, what is known as a WASP, and thus belong to the only group in [Canadian] society which it is entirely safe to ridicule.” —Northrop Frye

    I also note that St Cletus was the third pope and the last of that name, which suggests that it hasn’t been a feature of elite nomenclature for a very long time.

  127. David Marjanović says:

    Although the word Appalachian doesn’t seem to come up, I’ve seen plenty of mocking of generic rednecks/red-staters on teh intarwebz, always coming from the left (by American standards at least). Usually incest jokes are involved.

  128. David Eddyshaw says:

    “if you’re not part of the targeted community you may not notice such mocking as long as it isn’t so blatant as to trigger your radar.”

    True indeed. I am still sometimes brought up short by this; if you don’t belong to an obvious minority you really have no idea what those who do have to put up with. Most of it is suffered in silence.

    I had the humbling experience of being thanked privately by a colleague for speaking out against bigotry in a context where I’d actually thought at the time I was just retailing liberal platitudes with not much real application to our everyday work. I was quite wrong about that, and I hadn’t even realised it; moreover, if it hadn’t been for my own entirely risk-free virtue-signalling, she probably wouldn’t have mentioned it.

  129. J.W. Brewer says:

    I think there’s a broader range of low-social-status non-Hispanic white Americans whom it is “safe” (in the relevant sense) to mock. It should be noted, however, that specifically Appalachian stereotypes are often imposed on other sorts of rural/”rustic” Americans as to whom they really don’t fit, implying that the Appalachian is sort of the prototypical example. But e.g. in the NYC area the mockable low-status whites close at hand are often ethnically Italian, from New Jersey or Long Island or the not-yet-hipsterized/gentrified parts of Brooklyn etc, and the negative stereotypes that get imposed on that group (the “Guidos” or the “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd) do not involve moonshining, cousin-marriage, snake-handling or any similar repurposed Appalachian stereotype.

    One fascinating-to-me thing about the 2008 election is that the GOP insiders who decided Sarah Palin would be a good running mate may have naively thought to themselves “well, she’s kinda folksy and down-home but it’s not like she’s from Kentucky or Arkansas (NB: I assume Rodger C would agree with me that the Ozarks are functionally part of Appalachia, stereotypewise, whatever a geologist might say to the contrary?). I mean; there aren’t any pre-existing negative stereotypes about Alaska that are going to get pinned to her, right?” But lo and behold the internet-snark subdivision of the Coastal-Elitist-American community promptly rose to the occasion and created the requisite anti-Alaskan slurs and stereotypes, and pretty soon people were deprecating her as e.g. a “snowbilly” as if they’d been slurring Alaskans that way all their lives.

  130. I think there’s a broader range of low-social-status non-Hispanic white Americans whom it is “safe” (in the relevant sense) to mock. It should be noted, however, that specifically Appalachian stereotypes are often imposed on other sorts of rural/”rustic” Americans as to whom they really don’t fit, implying that the Appalachian is sort of the prototypical example.

    Right on both counts. And to the second point:

    NB: I assume Rodger C would agree with me that the Ozarks are functionally part of Appalachia, stereotypewise

    As would I, a son of the Ozarks, which is why I get so bent out of shape about the stereotyping of Appalachia. (First they came for the West Virginians, and I said nothing, for I was from Arkansas…)

  131. I was a son of the New Jersey Piedmont, and grew up with proto-Guidos, but it never occurred to me to mock them for their accents. Quite the other way about, indeed.

  132. But lo and behold the internet-snark subdivision of the Coastal-Elitist-American community promptly rose to the occasion and created the requisite anti-Alaskan slurs and stereotypes, and pretty soon people were deprecating her as e.g. a “snowbilly” as if they’d been slurring Alaskans that way all their lives.

    I am reminded of a Louis CK routine: “White trash is a very funny expression to me because it’s the only racial expression you can use and no one gets offended. You can be talking to the most liberal hippie in the world, you go, ‘Hey, I saw this guy, he was white trash,’ he’ll go, ‘Haha! F*** that guy! White trash piece of s***! Let’s laugh at him because he’s poor and starving to death, f****** loser!”

  133. Sure, I am familiar with Cletus and the Simpsons in general. Again, that is TV mocking “hillbillies”. In real life, I just don’t hear much of that. Do educated white Americans condescend towards unrural white Americans? Sure. My grandparents were convinced that snowmobilers, people who put cars on blocks on their front yard, and Catholics who wouldn’t use birth control were all making choices based on ignorance, not free will. Class tensions are nothing new. But a lot of us educated white folk have relatives among those rural white Americans, so if we are sometimes frustrated by their tastes and behavior it is often because they are us.

    My point really was that there is still quite a lot of mocking of blacks, gays, women, Jews, Indians, Chinese etc. going on. Maybe not in elevated “progressive” circles, but among most white people I deal with. I have very little sympathy for the view that rural white Americans have somehow dropped to the bottom of the American social totem pole.

  134. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting, I hadn’t encountered snowbilly – only the more personal Caribou Barbie referring to Palin herself.

    whatever a geologist might say to the contrary

    Not much. The Ozarks and the Appalachians used to be a continuous mountain chain, the product of North America slamming into Gondwana.

  135. Sure, I guess. It’s true that I can’t recall any particular example of anti-Appalachian mocking in real life, either. But then again, I’ve never been anywhere near the actual Appalachians or areas heavily settled by people identifying (or more to the point, identified) as being from there, so this is not surprising.

    But I think the larger point here is this: there’s no reason in the slightest to give people any credit at all for tolerance or broad-mindedness if they don’t actually apply those qualities to the people they dislike, perceive as a threat, or compete with for access to scarce resources. Will I, who have unfortunately never even seen the inside of mosque, get a medal for not holding a grudge against either Shiites or Sunnis? It seems to me utterly besides the point who’s actually at the bottom of the totem pole. If (again “if”) we’ve established that in society P, prejudice against tribe X’s neargroup is licit, but against their fargroup taboo, in any situation where we had objective distance, would we as anthropologists conclude that…clearly tribe X was more virtuous than its competitor tribe Y? As a tribe X philologist, at least, this seems to me unlikely. And I don’t think we would find the reasoning any more sound even if we determined that tribe X’s fargroup tribe Z, or tribe AA, or tribe BB was by various social indicators lower on the “totem pole” than tribe Y. (And we would probably tend to suspect the sincerity of tribe X’s overtures to Z, AA, BB, and so on.)

    Of course it’s hardly a matter of indifference for the various fargroups or neargroups of various tribes who sits on top of the “totem pole,” especially when–if I take Vanya’s implication correctly–I do agree it would be quite a stretch to argue that anti-“rural white American” prejudice is even remotely comparable to other forms of racial prejudice from very recent memory. That said, if we excuse one form of prejudice because of tastes and behavior, is there any form of prejudice we can be confident of excluding?

  136. I have very little sympathy for the view that rural white Americans have somehow dropped to the bottom of the American social totem pole.

    Straw man; nobody’s saying that. The point is not that they have dropped to the bottom of the American social totem pole, it’s that nobody is ashamed to be prejudiced against them, which is a very different point and has the merit of being true. And apparently you do not hang out in online political discussion groups, which is a very wise life choice but would explain why you don’t encounter this prejudice.

  137. I think America is very racist society.

    I mean the whole idea of dividing people on the basis of color of your skin is basically racist, right?

    But nobody in America sees anything wrong with that. It’s perfectly all right to self-identify on the basis of race and call people of different race with deeply offensive terms like “whites” or “blacks”.

    This looks so wrong…

  138. I think America is very racist society.

    I don’t think anybody disagrees.

  139. Racists are just the symptom. True problem is the racialist mentality which makes otherwise perfectly sane people to pay attention to ridiculous things like color of skin.

    Just stop noticing. Stop saying things like white people or black people or brown people.

    These things simply don’t exist. There are English-speaking Americans, unassimilated immigrants, unassimilated indigenous peoples and foreigners.

    That’s the only population classification America needs.

    * by unassimilated, I mean, of course, that they don’t speak English at home. this calls for some special policies to deal with their needs – teach English to immigrants, help indigenous peoples to maintain their languages and so on.

  140. I trust you don’t think this is a problem peculiar to America.

  141. There are English-speaking Americans, unassimilated immigrants, unassimilated indigenous peoples and foreigners.

    That’s the only population classification America needs.

    Ideally, yes. The trouble is that some of the first group treat others of the first group as if they were unassimilated immigrants or even undesirable foreigners, even after four centuries (and ironically so, given that the average black American lineage is longer resident in this country than the average white American lineage).

    This is why when the idea of social democracy a la Scandinavia is brought up, some reactionary always explains that it works for Scandinavians because their societies are so “homogeneous”. Which is another way of saying that there is no group of Danes (e.g.) who the rest of the society has decided to treat as non-Danes. Indeed, the Jews of Denmark survived Nazi extermination because ordinary Danes treated them, even the stateless refugees, not as Jews but as Danes of the Jewish faith.

    And if you ask why this is so in the U.S. and not in Denmark, I reply that we hate the most those whom we have most harmed.

  142. There *is* something peculiar, but it’s more narrow or specific than xenophobia (which is, alas, universal). But I’m struggling to pinpoint this peculiarity. It just intuitively seems to be a surprising realization that the black / white divide in America transcends the “regular” xenophobia, as if there were only two “races” here, with the other groups being distant runners-up. But I will have to think harder to try to analyze what causes this impression.

    Another thing which seemed peculiar was how much the system is stacked against the lower class, specifically in the institutions which one would expect to be preoccupied with fairness, like courts and law enforcement. It strikes me at every turn. Here I can recall one anecdote which, in my opinion, captures the magnitude of American weirdness (which is probably inherited from old class-ist Britain?). It goes like this: if you took something from the store without paying, you get prosecuted for shoplifting. But if you ate a morsel of food in a store without paying, it immediately becomes a worse crime, shoplifting exacerbated by tampering with evidence.

  143. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I reply that we hate the most those whom we have most harmed.

    In your experience, do you find that the average American particular hates American Indians? My impression is the opposite: favorable, romantic impressions (not that this translates into much in the way of effective pro-indigene policy).

  144. America is definitely weird; as William Carlos Williams put it, “The pure products of America go crazy.” And one weird thing about it is how invisible the weirdness is to most white Americans.

  145. In your experience, do you find that the average American particular hates American Indians?

    The average American does not encounter any American Indians in real life. I suspect if you canvassed white Americans in places where there are substantial numbers of Native Americans you wouldn’t find as many favorable, romantic impressions.

  146. we hate the most those whom we have most harmed

    Tacitus was being discussed elsewhere. “Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris.”

  147. Not only are the Ozarks geologically the same as Appalachia, but a map of east-of-the-Mississippi state origins of Ozark settlers looks remarkably like a mashed map of Appalachia.

  148. Greg Pandatshang says:

    The average American does not encounter any American Indians in real life. I suspect if you canvassed white Americans in places where there are substantial numbers of Native Americans you wouldn’t find as many favorable, romantic impressions.

    I have little doubt that you’re right about that. Anecdotally, I remember reading a letter to the editor a long time ago (no idea where I saw this; it was ~20 years ago), complaining that non-indigenous people developed negative attitudes toward specific nations when they lived near them, while continuing to have a romantic view of other indigenous peoples, i.e. people living near the Dene Nation thought Navajo were the bad Indians but loved Lakota Sioux horse warriors, Pocahontas, Tecumseh, etc., while those living near Pine Ridge thought the Lakota were the bad ones, and so forth.

    It’s just that I think this is an arbitrary additional proviso from the perspective of John Cowan’s initial assertion. I would suggest it’s simpler just to say that people tend to develop negative attitudes toward nearby groups that are having problems. When my dad was a kid growing up in Chicago, the nearby bad neighborhood that his mother warned him about was the “hillbilly” neighborhood. I don’t think this was because my grandmother was projecting her unresolved guilt about our collective mistreatment of hillbillies.

  149. I don’t think this was because my grandmother was projecting her unresolved guilt about our collective mistreatment of hillbillies.

    I don’t think anybody here has said that. The reasons for this prejudice being the only one still expressible in the polite culture are semiotic and have to do with whites (and especially those of British Protestant origin) being the default category of Americans. It goes back to Aidan Kehoe’s remark about Austrians, which started this thread. Anyhow it was probably a good idea for your dad not to wander into Uptown in those days.

  150. 1-Dmitry Pruss: there is a French anthropologist, Emmanuel Todd (who also, incidentally, predicted in 1976 that the Soviet Union would fall in the late eighties/early nineties, and who a decade ago claimed that Tunisia would be the likely initiator of an Arab democratic revolution and that the Euro would fail as a currency…two out of three so far, and in the near future his third prediction may come true) who has done some very interesting work on the white/black divide in the United States being “primeval” in nature, i.e. all other social/ethnic/racial divisions are subordinated to this core divide.

    He argues that the difference between the United States and Britain is that, while both societies accept the existence of inherent inequality between groups of human beings, in Britain the basic division was class instead of race for historical reasons: in Britain the industrial revolution took place before any large-scale non-white immigration had taken place, and thus social class became the core social divide. In the United States, on the other hand, industrialization took place long after American society had already incorporated Black Americans, and thus class could not become the primeval divide in society, the way it had in Britain, as the divide between Blacks and Whites had already been established as the core division within society, long before industrialization (with its profound polarizing effects in separating a proletariat from an ever-richer property-owning elite) took place.

    I had mentioned his work in my comments here:

    http://languagehat.com/france-gives-in-to-the-hashtag/

    2-Ah, romanticizing others…In the Southern U.S. there was plenty of romanticism involving Natives in Alaska or Canada (if my students’ questions were any guide), whereas in British Columbia, there was nothing romantic about them (their being so crassly overrepresented among the homeless may have had something to do with this), to students or to anyone living there…and conversely, Black Americans were far more romanticized in British Columbia (again, if my students’ questions were any guide…) than in the Southern United States.

  151. tI trust you don’t think this is a problem peculiar to America.

    No, indeed. Closely analogous cases are the Akhdam of Yemen, the Cwa (Pygmies) of Rwanda, the Dalits (untouchables) of India, and the burakumin of Japan. The last group are the most peculiar, as there is no way to tell burakumin and other Japanese apart. Consequently, there is a book, banned by the Japanese government but still circulating, listing all burakumin families in Japan, so that those who wish to avoid employing them or marrying into them may do so.

    Update: The Cagots of western France and northern Spain were another such group, though they have pretty much assimilated now. Like the burakumin, they were indistinguishable physically and linguistically from the general population. The burakumin are mostly descended from people who engaged in “unclean” trades like garbage collection and butchery, but nobody even remembers why the Cagots were considered so loathsome. During the French Revolution, Cagots destroyed most of their birth records in order to hide themselves, but persecution continued until very recently, because people in France simply kept in their heads the knowledge of which families were “unclean”, using rhyming songs as mnemonics.

  152. listing all burakumin families in Japan, so that those who wish to avoid employing them or marrying into them may do so

    Reminds me of Plecker and the Melungeons.

    Etienne: Cf. Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race.

  153. David Marjanović says:

    and that the Euro would fail as a currency…

    The EU has such an impressive tradition of doing the absolute minimum of what’s necessary at the last minute, after a 14-hour or 17-hour night of nonstop negotiations, that I don’t think the € will fail. Sure, a common currency can’t work for long without common finances and common taxation, so I think those are going to come – as slowly as at all possible, but no slower.

    burakumin

    What are you quoting? It’s not in this thread.

  154. I suspect if you canvassed white Americans in places where there are substantial numbers of Native Americans you wouldn’t find as many favorable, romantic impressions.

    Anecdotal support – people in New England where I grew up tend to be very positive towards Native Americans, and we don’t have many left. In Washington state I have heard a lot of anti-Native American prejudice from white folks.

    it’s that nobody is ashamed to be prejudiced against [Appalachians/rural white Evangelicals], which is a very different point and has the merit of being true.

    No one is ashamed of being prejudiced against lawyers, hippies, Scientologists or Duke graduates either. False analogy? Sure, but not in the minds of most people who make fun of the rural white poor. Can’t you choose to move somewhere else where better jobs are available, go to night school, acquire a mid-Atlantic accent, read Darwin, etc.? We all know people who did just that. You can’t choose not to be black, but it is very easy to shed one’s rural origins, at least in the US.

    Is that really that easy? Of course not, but as a country that idolizes individual accomplishment Americans will always tend to have contempt for “failure” and ignore the role environment and circumstance play in success.

    Point being, I don’t think there is some new consensus created by political correctness that it’s now okay to mock the rural poor simply because they are white, which is the point that I was originally reacting to. Urban dwellers have always mocked country folk. That doesn’t make it right, but it is something to think about before insisting that rural white poverty-stricken Americans are somehow being singled out for special contempt by the Coastal elites.

  155. What are you quoting? It’s not in this thread.

    Well hell, where’d I see that? I was on my way to bed. It’s around here somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it before heading to class. Ki penuste est ma vie!

  156. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Rodger C,

    Note that my mention of hillbillies was adventitious and fortuitous in relation to the ongoing discussion about attitudes toward Appalachian people in this thread.

  157. Point being, I don’t think there is some new consensus created by political correctness that it’s now okay to mock the rural poor simply because they are white, which is the point that I was originally reacting to.

    I don’t either; it’s always been okay to mock the rural poor.

  158. Greg, I understood that. It didn’t seem offensive to me in context, which is admittedly a tricky thing.

    Can’t you choose to move somewhere else where better jobs are available, go to night school, acquire a mid-Atlantic accent, read Darwin, etc.? We all know people who did just that. You can’t choose not to be black, but it is very easy to shed one’s rural origins, at least in the US.

    I did all those things, in substance, and as a result I’ve had to hide my origins from a lot of people, meanwhile having to listen to all sorts of horrible nonsense about “those people”; and, if I reveal that I’m one of “those people,” being told brightly, “Well, you’ve certainly overcome it!”, intended as a compliment. The point is not that Appalachians etc. are uniquely victimized (which would of course be absurd) but that we’re uniquely still subject to pernicious mythologizing from the polite culture, and again, the whole point is that this is because we’re seen as belonging to the vanilla category, so that our entire culture is written under the sign of deficiency. Your statement seems to imply this view of things.

  159. And oh, that statement about the burakumin was in the immediately previous post, as I somehow missed an hour ago.

  160. What are you quoting? It’s not in this thread.

    It was last night when I wrote it, and it is now. Must be a glitch in the moderation system.

    The EU has such an impressive tradition of doing the absolute minimum of what’s necessary at the last minute

    Hah. Cf. Churchill (attributed): “The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative.” (Abba Eban seems to have actually said it first for public consumption, and he extended it to all humanity.)

    No one is ashamed of being prejudiced against lawyers, hippies, Scientologists or Duke graduates either.

    Anyone expressing prejudice against hippies around here is going to come up against the razor-sharp tongue of my wife. As an emigrant from the South, she has plenty of animus against Southern culture, but none against individual Southerners if they mind their manners.

    Urban dwellers have always mocked country folk.

    And vice versa: consider the Hogbens with their utter contempt for city slickers, professors, and all their works, the irony being that they really do know better.

  161. Listen to Rodger C, folks. He knows whereof he speaks.

  162. And now my post is in moderation despite having only one link. WordPress hates me, waaaaah.

  163. WordPress hates all of us. But I have freed your comment from its chains; hear it roar!

  164. J.W. Brewer says:

    That bigotry against A’s may be longstanding rather than a recent development is neither here nor there to the observations that: (i) serious taboos have arisen in more recent history against public expression of equally-longstanding bigotry against B’s, C’s and D’s; but (ii) no comparable taboo has arisen against anti-A bigotry. That’s at a minimum an interesting social phenomenon worth trying to understand whether or not one thinks it ought to be condemned. Obviously this sort of shift can make anti-A bigotry seem more prominent in context even if its absolute level is unchanged. I guess the more interesting question (although difficult to know how one would test it empirically) is whether there’s enough of a natural, if unedifying, tendency to bigotry that taboos against the expression of anti-B/C/D bigotry might tend to increase the absolute incidence of anti-A bigotry, as that unedifying aspect of human nature searches for an alternative and less-taboo outlet.

    Consider by way of parallel the bizarre-seeming-to-me level of anti-Trump invective that basically plays on his alleged orangeness. It seems to display all of the standard features of explicitly racist rhetoric (as can be seen if you take some of the examples and substitute in another color with pre-existing symbolic salience in American racial discourse) but I guess seems ok because there isn’t actually an Orange-American community out there that it’s taboo to express bigotry against. But the enthusiasm with which some of this racist-against-the-orange rhetoric is expressed suggests to me that it fulfills some sort of deep (if not particularly admirable) psychological need.

  165. I suspect you’re right. We’re full of unfortunate baked-in impulses and biases it behooves us to fight against when we recognize them (and not to enthusiastically give in to them and celebrate them as “natural,” as do too many deplorables).

  166. Mr. Brewer, you have me confused. Ok, As are Appalachians, Bs are blacks, Cs are Catholics(?), who, I believe, where mocked by die-hard Protestants, who are now love Cs, because they are against abortions. But who are Ds? Druids, dermatologists? My name start with D and I want to know whether I was mocked for that all my life.

  167. J.W. Brewer says:

    The misconception that “natural” = good is a separate problem. On the other hand the belief (frickin’ Rousseau …) that the not-good is unnatural (and thus has some external social or historical or economic or what-have-you cause that can be easily solved if we just vote for the right fellows at the next election) is also a problem.

    As to D.O.’s question, I will refer him to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_slurs#D, while noting that “ethnic” slurs are not the only potentially relevant ones and even within that more limited universe the list is almost certainly incomplete …

  168. J.W. Brewer says:

    Separately and more generally, I will point out that if you google the phrase “last acceptable bigotry” it turns out there are lots of rival contenders for that supposed distinction.

  169. David Marjanović says:

    Ah yes, the comment explaining the burakumin is now there, right above the post that quotes it. Perhaps the update about the cagots retroactively sent it into moderation.

    But the enthusiasm with which some of this racist-against-the-orange rhetoric is expressed suggests to me that it fulfills some sort of deep (if not particularly admirable) psychological need.

    I don’t think so. Trump isn’t orange by birth, it’s spray-tan; calling him orange is a comment on his vanity/narcissism. And, well, if you want to mock someone for their skin color in America, there’s a template for that…

  170. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Trump isn’t orange by birth”

    I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to learn this. Is this what Americans mean by “birtherism”?

    Incidentally, the ubiquitous picture of DT sharing a moment with so-called Steve Bannon has led me to feel somewhat guilty about having mocked David Icke.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-julia-hahn-breitbart-steve-bannon-special-assistant-white-house-team-a7542426.html

  171. @David Marianović: “the treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye, equivalent to Trianon for Germany.”

    Trianon was between Hungary and the Allies IIRC.

  172. David Marjanović says:

    *facepalm* Yes, Trianon for Hungary and Versailles itself for Germany of course. Thanks.

  173. But the enthusiasm with which some of this racist-against-the-orange rhetoric is expressed suggests to me that it fulfills some sort of deep (if not particularly admirable) psychological need.

    I think you are onto something there. Of course, superficially, it is about Trump’s ridiculous spray-on tan, as David pointed out. But it is a bit odd that people have focused so much on the skin color issue when Trump has so many other ridiculous qualities. But maybe it is not so much a psychological need, as it is convenience. Sadly skin color provides an easy ready-to-use template for most Americans looking to mock someone else.

  174. From what I can tell St-Germain-en-Laye seems to have none of the historical resonance for Austrians that Versailles had for Germany and Trianon still does for Hungary. I suppose that speaks to the “reboot” David discussed up thread.

  175. It seems to me that for many, Trump’s orangeness is an index of (a) his ridiculous superficial vanity and (b) his total unawareness of how he actually comes across with it. Still, I don’t indulge in those jokes myself.

  176. David Marjanović says:

    Everything Vanya said.

  177. I have always malunderstood contemporary Austrian-ness. I thought it was the same thing as contemporary Taiwaneseness, a kind of insistent, formerly deeply vulnerable but now rather confident, “not Chinese!”

  178. David Marjanović says:

    The Taiwanese are getting there: they insisted they were Chinese for decades, now that’s coming to an end, and they don’t even need a world war for that. 🙂

    Taiwan, BTW, is the same size as Austria area-wise. It’s just much more densely settled, with 22 million people last time I heard as opposed to 8.4.

  179. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Can anyone summarise what the resonance that Trianon has in Hungary is? I’ve never heard about that.

    I was a little surprised to learn recently that the Hungarian government post-WW1 wanted a Habsburg to continue as king, but the victorious Allies nixed the idea. I wonder at what point Habsburgist sentiment died out in Hungary.

  180. Hungarians of a nationalistic bent still bear a grudge over the loss of the old territories, especially the ones that retain an ethnic Hungarian presence (like southern Slovakia). The feeling is that Wilson’s notion of self-determination was applied prejudicially against them.

  181. David Marjanović says:

    Taiwan has also been trying to be the better China, hasn’t it? 🙂

  182. Is Americanness a better Englishness?

  183. David Eddyshaw says:

    “a better Englishness”

    A contradiction in terms, surely?

  184. @David Marjanović: Apologies for misspelling your last name above.

    Speaking of Austrianness, it must exist in some way, if only as an object of Thomas Bernhard’s and Elfride Jelinek’s unrelenting hatred.

  185. For Americanness to be a better Englishness, it would have to be English to start with, and this is hardly the case after 1700 or so. Even before political independence, Americans saw themselves as under the Crown, but only in personal union with England, not as part of it. (The English tended to disagree, though Pitt the Elder was a shining counterexample.)

  186. Surely we cannot speak of “Americans” as a unified group, then or now. There were many colonials who did indeed think of themselves as Englishmen, and at the time of the Revolution my understanding is that there were about one-third for, one-third against, and one-third just trying to get by without getting killed.

  187. Greg Pandatshang says:

    However, the revolutionaries are said to have been concerned with preserving “the liberty and privileges of Englishmen in the same degree as if we had continued among our brethren in Great Britain.”

  188. @LH: And many of them – the so-called United Empire Loyalists – relocated to Canada, where they formed the nucleus of the English-speaking population in Ontario.

  189. Exactly.

  190. Opposition to “dissolving the political bands” isn’t the same as having an English identity. Many Irish people in the 18C were fine with the personal union between England and Ireland: as Swift said in the fourth Drapier’s Letter: “We have indeed obliged ourselves to have the same king with them, and consequently they are obliged to have the same king with us.” But that did not make the Irish English.

    Indeed, the first extra-constitutional (and in fact truly revolutionary) action came on the side of Parliament in the Declaratory Act 1766, which proclaimed that “that the King’s majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”

  191. Greg Pandatshang says:

    hmmm, I never thought about the American Revolution in the context of the British Isles personal union. The Acts of Union were still a spry 69 years old in 1776 – funny to think that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his brother (Bonnie Cardinal Hank) were still alive during the revolution – I wonder what they thought about it (some variation on “a pox on both your houses”, one can only assume).

  192. There’s no comparison between Ireland, an ancient kingdom with its own language and traditions and a deep hatred for the Sassenach invader, and the American colonies, settled by Englishmen who spoke English and by and large considered themselves loyal Englishmen abroad until the policies of the metropole became too onerous for them.

  193. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Many Irish people in the 18C were fine with the personal union between England and Ireland”

    The not-as-exciting-as-they-sound Acts of Union of 1707 that created the UK were popular with the Scots Parliament; not so popular with Scots in general. Martial law was imposed … In the event, Scotland did pretty well out of it, at least in economic terms, so long as the UK had an empire.

    The union of the crowns in 1603 was much less controversial, though hardly free from dissent on both sides of the border; this was lessened by the fact that during the seventeenth century measures to create a more fundamental union largely ran into the sand. During the Civil War, the Scots actually invaded England in order to bring the benefits of Presbyterianism to benighted Episcopalians.

    I had to learn all this in school. Just be grateful I’m not telling you about brochs as well.

  194. Greg Pandatshang: There’s an alternate history short story, I think by John Buchan, in which an American delegation tracks down Prince Charles to offer him the American throne. He’s drunk, dissipated, and decrepit, so they go back home without him.

  195. If a nation is a language with an army and navy, I wonder if an empire is a religion with an army and navy. It would seem to work for Ottomans vs. Russians. Ottomans vs. Austrians. Charlemagne vs. the Saxons, Saracens, and, well, almost everyone. The Conquista and Reconquista in Iberia. Catholic Portuguese vs. Protestant Dutch vs. Muslim Malay colonies in Southeast Asia. If we allow for various nationalist or internationalist secular religions of the modern era.

  196. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Surely anyone who sets off to find a Jacobite claimant would go into it knowing full well to expect someone drunk, dissipated, and bemused! I mean the direct line claimants specifically; no aspersions are intended toward Duke Francis.

  197. There’s no comparison

    Politically there was, and both sides in the pre-Revolution period were well aware of it. The Declaratory Act 1766 was a mostly verbatim copy of the Declaratory Act 1719, which pronounced the English Parliament superior to the dependent Irish Parliament. Swift, ibid.:

    Those who come over hither to us from England, and some weak people among ourselves, whenever in discourse we make mention of liberty and property, shake their heads, and tell us, that Ireland is a “depending kingdom,” as if they would seem, by this phrase, to intend that the people of Ireland is in some state of slavery or dependence different from those of England; Whereas a “depending kingdom” is a modern term of art, unknown, as I have heard, to all ancient civilians, and writers upon government; and Ireland is on the contrary called in some statutes an “imperial crown,” as held only from God; which is as high a style as any kingdom is capable of receiving.

    Therefore by this expression, a “depending kingdom,” there is no more understood than that by a statute made here in the 33d year of Henry 8th [1542]. “The King and his successors are to be kings imperial of this realm as united and knit to the imperial crown of England.” [This was in effect the Union of the Crowns for Ireland, because before this date the King of England was only Lord of Ireland.]

    I have looked over all the English and Irish statutes without finding any law that makes Ireland depend upon England, any more than England does upon Ireland. We have indeed obliged ourselves to have the same king with them, and consequently they are obliged to have the same king with us. For the law was made by our own Parliament, and our ancestors then were not such fools (whatever they were in the preceding reign) to bring themselves under I know not what dependence, which is now talked of without any ground of law, reason or common sense.

    Let whoever think otherwise, I M.B. Drapier, desire to be excepted, for I declare, next under God, I depend only on the King my sovereign, and on the laws of my own country; and I am so far from depending upon the people of England, that if they should ever rebel against my sovereign (which God forbid) I would be ready at the first command from His Majesty to take arms against them, as some of my countrymen did against theirs at Preston. And if such a rebellion should prove so successful as to fix the Pretender on the throne of England, I would venture to transgress that statute so far as to lose every drop of my blood to hinder him from being King of Ireland.

    ‘Tis true indeed, that within the memory of man, the Parliaments of England have sometimes assumed the power of binding this kingdom by laws enacted there, wherein they were at first openly opposed (as far as truth, reason and justice are capable of opposing) by the famous Mr. Molineux, an English gentleman born here, as well as by several of the greatest patriots, and best Whigs in England; but the love and torrent of power prevailed. Indeed the arguments on both sides were invincible. For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery: But in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt.

    The famous Mr. Molyneux is obscure today, but unjustly so: he was a natural, moral, and political philosopher in a time that did not yet divide these, and his book The Case of Ireland Stated, though burned at Tyburn by the public hangman, was in both Ireland and America recognized as a forceful statement of the traditional (and, ironically, the modern) constitutional position: the king may have many realms, but there is a legislature for each, capable of passing laws for its own territory and (crucially) granting supply in the form of taxes and public loans, and that these legislatures are not to interfere with one another’s doings in their proper spheres.

    Brochs actually sound very interesting, and there has been much debate and changing of positions in the last half-century or so concerning their purpose. Towers naturally suggest defense, but many of them are in quite indefensible positions. Reading about them in Wikipedia led me to mediaeval Irish round towers, also first thought to be for defense but now typically considered bell towers. Of these the shortest, and perhaps the shortest tower in the world, is at Faughart, Co. Louth; only a single circular course of stones about 2 inches high remain.

    As the reputed birthplace of St. Brigid, Faughart has long been a site of pilgrimage and tourism, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the tower had been systematically stripped of its stones. It was at Faughart that Edward Bruce, the younger brother of Robert Bruce, was overthrown by a combined Irish and Norman force, losing his claim to be High King of Ireland, and he is buried there.

  198. Politically there was, and both sides in the pre-Revolution period were well aware of it.

    Yes, of course, and so am I, but I thought you were adducing Ireland in support of your theory that Americans were as one in their rejection of Englishness.

Speak Your Mind

*