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CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE PAST
|The words we use in
conversations about the past sometimes reveal our points
of view, even when we aren't aware of it. When we first
published this web site in late 1997, several people
pointed out some of the words that appear all over this
web site are, well, a bit of a problem. Here are some of
the "problem" words that several people have
pointed out to us.
To look at this idea, first I looked up "cabin" in the thesaurus, and came up with words like shanty, shed, shack, hovel, hut, log home, lodge, and cottage. I then looked up "residence" and found the words habitation, domicile, dwelling, home, abode, mansion, and manse. But can't a "cabin" also be a domicile, dwelling, or abode? What thoughts do you have about this? (Go to Feedback and let us know!)
Ideas about this? go Feedback.
Ideas about this? go to Feedback.
Should we change the problem words?
Well, we could go through the entire web site and just replace all the problem words with more appropriate (some would say more "PC") word choices. But that would not only be VERY difficult, it would probably be never-ending, because these sorts of language debates never really end. They shift and change as people develop different sensitivities to words that offend other people. Whatever replacement words we come up with could easily need to be replaced in, say, 5-10 years. Or even sooner!
Also, much of the material included on this site is from published sources. We can't go back and change those bits of text, because they are already in print.
Finally, replacement language is frequently cumbersome and awkward. For a good discussion of semantics in the way we talk about history, you might have a look at a paper written by Cheryl LaRoche (45), in which she talks about semantics and New York Burial Ground project (http://r2.gsa.gov/fivept/fphome.htm).
It's a problem, and we don't think we can really solve it. But we can talk about it, and and by doing so maybe we will all be more sensitive and aware of the words we use. What do you think? What "problem words" have you found, here and in other places?
See feedback pages and let us know!
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‹ Carol McDavid 1998