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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 503)...

    If the word tribe is such a stumbling block for so many, you might consider using what I take to be a roughly equivalent term from the Djabugay language of Queensland, Ngawa, pronounced "Nowa."

    ...and the response:

    I'm always glad to see people exercising their powers of invention,
    but I'm afraid this particular idea doesn't strike me as viable. The
    language is full of terms that have changed their meaning over time
    (like, say, atom), that have been corrupted (like positive
    feedback
    ), and that are widely misunderstood and misused (like
    natural selection, survival of the fittest, and gene), but
    every author who wants to deal with them can't simply make up new ones
    arbitrarily.



    Suppose (because people generally have no clear idea what a gene and a
    genome are) one author were to substitute the words squel and
    squelome. The next author, not caring for squel and
    squelome, substitutes ichthor and ichthorism, and so
    on. How would this help? The concepts would be no easier to convey using
    these terms, and all that would result would be confusion, with people
    pointlessly trying to figure out the difference between a squel and an
    ichthor.



    I was compelled to coin the terms Leavers and Takers, since
    no equivalents present themselves in English (civilized is not
    equivalent to Takers, for example, because the Maya were civilized
    but not Takers). These terms are widely misunderstood to refer to people
    of different character traits (Leavers being "good
    people" and Takers being "bad people"), but using the
    Ihalmiut Eskimo equivalents (Innuit and Kablunait) wouldn't
    solve the problem, because these too would inevitably be misunderstood in
    the same way.



    The stumbling block in all these cases (including that of tribe)
    is not the word but the concept, and the concept will be there to be
    stumbled over no matter what color you paint it.


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