the few, the proud, the pigment-challenged

Anton Sherwood (
Fri, 29 Aug 1997 08:35:50 -0700

of terminology, Arkuat writes:

: ... Probably "Caucasian" needs no replacement, either, but if you
: really want one, it's probably more honest to speak of palefaces,
: or more colloquially and metaphorically, of white people.

It's not so "metaphorical" in languages that are low on the
Berlin-Kay scale. What the heck does he mean by that, I hear
you ask. To be brief, there are plenty of languages that have
only a few color terms; e.g. in Swahili the only true adjectives
for color[*] are translated as `black' `white' `red' -- but their
older meaning is more likely `dark' `pale' `warm-color'. In such
color-poor languages, I *am* white, because `white' embraces a chunk
of color-space much bigger than the 1/16 or less that we give it. On
another hand, by that standard a lot of "yellow" people are white too.

[*] Swahili has other color terms, but they're periphrastic:
`green' = `of the color of leaves', `gray' = `of the color of ash',
`blue' = `of the color of _buluu_'. Presumably these are newer
than the three adjectives. (For all I know, colloquial Swahili
has true adjectives that didn't make it into my books.)

Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*