Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2008 December 5

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December 5[edit]

African Americans[edit]

In the US, are Arabs who emigrate from Egypt (for example) to America considered African Americans or is Egypt not part of Africa? (talk) 03:19, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Of course Egypt is part of Africa, but that's pretty much irrelevant; in America the term "African-American" is used particularly of someone of Black African descent. A small number of commentators have even sought to restrict it further, to mean "a descendant of (black) American slaves", saying that Barack Obama shouldn't be termed "African-American". I don't think that's going to catch on, but the fact remains that a word's meaning isn't determined by what you think it ought to mean based on its constituent parts, and that the person in your question would most likely be termed an Egyptian-American or Arab-American. - Nunh-huh 03:52, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
In my experience, the children of immigrants (or, I suppose, the immigrants themselves) from African countries tend to hyphen-identify themselves with the country of origin rather than the continent. So someone might be Nigerian American, Somalian American, or Senegalese American. But my experience could be anecdotal. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 04:39, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
The analogy isn't perfect, especially when considering the descendant-of-slaves restriction mentioned by Nunh-huh, but newspapers rarely mean Iranian Americans or other immigrant groups listed under Category:Southwest Asian Americans when they write "Asian Americans". Similarly, most people in Western culture don't think of Morocco or Egypt when they hear "I spent my holidays in Africa", or "She married an African doctor". As a region of origin, the word "Africa" often means something closer to Sub-Saharan Africa (which not an easy term either; it can't ever be easy). ---Sluzzelin talk 06:30, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Iranian Americans may not come to mind when Americans hear "Asian American," but I think in polls and other studies reported in newspapers that categorize people by race, Iranian Americans would generally be classified as "Asian American." (talk) 07:19, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Aren't they actually classified as Caucasian? (I think this is the case, at least, in the Canadian census.) Adam Bishop (talk) 08:44, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
The Canadian census collects information about "ethnic origin" and one of 11 broader "population groups" (of which "White" is one). The Iranian ethnic origin is classified as belonging to the "West Asian" population group. [1] Few newspaper articles make distinctions this fine. There's every reason to believe "West Asian" counts as "Asian." (talk) 12:00, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I can agree that it's correct. I was addressing the difference between a logically correct categorization and what my intuitive, anecdotal, and entirely unreferenced expectations would be toward results of statistical semantics studies on associations when using and interpreting the unspecified term "Asian American".
  • According to the article on Asian American, even the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 1 Technical Documentation, 2001, at Appendix B-14 says: "A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes ‘‘Asian Indian,’’ ‘‘Chinese,’’ ‘‘Filipino,’’ ‘‘Korean,’’ ‘‘Japanese,’’ ‘‘Vietnamese,’’ and ‘‘Other Asian.’’"
  • 2000 US Census Brief: "The term “Black or African American” refers to people having origins in any of the Black race groups of Africa. It includes people who reported “Black, African Am., or Negro” or wrote in entries such as African American, Afro American, Nigerian, or Haitian."
These definitions may need more context or may have been revised since then, I did not check closely, but I think they reflect what most Americans, and the question was about Americans, associate (or associated at some time anyway).
I make no statement about whether Asian American "should" include Iranian American or Lebanese American Both groups have a larger population than Thai American, Cambodian American, or Malaysian American who are all explicitly mentioned in the quoted exceprt from the U.S. Census's summary file, unlike any of the groups of West Asian origin. ---Sluzzelin talk 12:55, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I suppose technically, Charlize Theron is an African American ... Little Red Riding Hoodtalk 01:47, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
There's nothing technical about it, it's a fact. Academy Award for Best Actress says she is the only African actress to win Best Actress. While "African-American" has become a synonym for now deprecated terms such as negro, black etc, it can also refer to a person of Caucasian ethnicity who just happens to come from Africa, and there are lots of them, particularly in South Africa. -- JackofOz (talk) 01:57, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Okay, the US Census classifies "Near Eastern" people (presumably including Iranians) as well as Arabs as "White." "African Americans" are those having their origins in the black racial groups of Africa. So according to the U.S. Census, Charlize Theron's kids, if they were American (which they may be - I have no idea) would not be African-American. Nor are most Egyptian Americans considered African-American. [2] (talk) 02:23, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
The U.S. census officially only relies on self-identification for classification purposes. It also does not provide guidance or clarification on how one should self-identify. It is assumed that if people are being honest (and not obnoxious about it) then only the individual themselves can categorize which cultural group they most closely identify with. 04:23, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
I don't really understand what you mean. These aren't "cultural groups." That would be like an "ethnic group," and would include answers like "Italian". We're talking about "racial groups." The link I gave above gives the US Census definitions of the racial groups. I agree that people are asked to self-identify, but that does not preclude the census from giving people guidance on what is meant by the words used. For example, this includes the fact that Arabs should identify themselves as White. (talk) 08:07, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

"Staving off the prospect of an imminent change"[edit]

This is quoted from the lead of 2008 Canadian parliamentary dispute.

"On December 4, 2008, Governor General Michaëlle Jean granted the request of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to prorogue (suspend without dissolving) Parliament until January 26, 2009, thereby staving off the prospect of an imminent change in government."

(The article is undergoing extensive editing so the wording may change at any time.)

It seems to me that "staving off", "prospect", and "imminent change" together add up to too much tentativeness in this sentence. Am I tilting at a windmill here, or are there really too many words flapping in the breeze?

CBHA (talk) 08:01, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

The Reference Desk is not for asking opinions. However, I will note that neither "staving off" nor "imminent change" contributes any tentativeness; more the opposite. The change was going to happen almost immediately without the prorogation; now it will not. --Anonymous, 08:08 UTC, December 5, 2008.
It is unnecessarily wordy, but this sort of question is better off on the article's talk page. (Personally I would change it to "thereby avoiding an imminent change", I guess.) Adam Bishop (talk) 08:43, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Thank you both for your replies. Given the political storm swirling around that article, I did not see much prospect of a considered response if I put my question on the talk page. For better or for worse, this is a much better place to ask about issues of wording. As for asking for opinions, IMO the language reference would be much briefer and much less interesting without opinions. CBHA (talk) 05:37, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Synonym for collateral damage[edit]

Can anyone think of a synonym for collateral damage? I don't want a phrase or definition, only a synonym (i.e. one word only) (talk) 08:57, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm offering a synonym for each word: collateral:civilian damage:casualties. Carnage is neutral/non-specific. Julia Rossi (talk) 09:19, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure that's a good synonym because you lose some of the meaning. Collateral means unintentional or at least not directly targeted. Civilian casualties can be intentional. I'd suggest accidental or additional in in lieu of civilian. (talk) 19:36, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I'd doubt that you will find a single word for it. The term itself is distillation of a long and specific description of the properties that constitute a certain act. - X201 (talk) 09:46, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Thanks people. (talk) 10:43, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
In a more general context, externality might be close to synonymous, or perhaps side effect. ---Sluzzelin talk 10:49, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Oops. — Kpalion(talk) 12:43, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
There's a "targeting error", but that's only one type of collateral damage. Another is when civilians are knowingly killed, along with the target, since it's considered to be "worth it" to get the target. StuRat (talk) 13:42, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
If your enemies did it, "war crime," he said cynically. Or if you are the one who did it "terrible unforeseen consequence." - Jmabel | Talk 18:32, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
What about when 18-year-old yanks bang away at British troops? They call it friendly fire, but I don't see what is so friendly about it. I just call it the result of trigger-happy high-school-dropouts who play the PlayStation too much.--KageTora (talk) 21:37, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
A related term is Fragging. 04:19, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Inadverticide? DOR (HK) (talk) 04:41, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

'Junk' as male genitals?[edit]

When and where did the slang word "junk" begin to refer to male genitalia? -- (talk) 17:47, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

The earliest citation Wiktionary can find for it is 2005, but it's probably somewhat older than that. —Angr 17:59, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I did this entry in 2004 tracing it possibly back to 1986: No doubt it's older than that, it's just that the printed record usually lags behind oral use. —GrantBarrett (talk) 16:18, 12 December 2008 (UTC)
Hmmm. I've only started hearing it used so quite recently. On the other hand, 'junk' (as in 'junk in the trunk') has been used to refer to the booty, or batty for quite some time, AFAIK. --Kurt Shaped Box (talk) 18:01, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
The past summer, one of my nieces asked her father and me why we called our pants "drawers". He said "'cause that's where we keep our junk." (/vaguely connected). --LarryMac | Talk 19:47, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
See Family Jewels (disambiguation). -- Wavelength (talk) 23:40, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

While we're up, how about package? —Tamfang (talk) 08:11, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

So any answers about junk or package? -- (talk) 14:40, 9 December 2008 (UTC)