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.
posted: 11 Dec 2000
updated: 02 Apr 2002