The political correctness of the term ?Oriental? depends on where you
are from and to whom you are speaking. Here in North America it is
considered to be offensive. In Europe and in parts of Asia it is
acceptable and in common usage.
One reason for its perceived offensiveness has to do with the meaning
of the root word, Orient. This term is derived from the Latin word
oriens, referring to where the sun rises in the east. Since oriental
is used to describe places (and people) that are to the East only in
relation to Europe, the term is considered by some to be Eurocentric.
But more likely, the real issue is its connotations stemming from the
times when Europeans viewed the Orient as ?exotic lands full of
romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires and inscrutable
customs. At the least these associations can give Oriental a dated
feel, and as a noun in contemporary contexts ? it is now widely taken
to be offensive.?
See the usage note here:
According to Wikipedia:
?In the United States, Ireland and Australasia (Australia and East
Asia), since approximately 1990 "Asian" has been considered a more
politically correct term for "Oriental", which previously referred to
people from China, Japan, and Korea and other East Asian countries.
This is partially due to the fact that the term "Orientalism" in
academia has become associated with the European colonial attitude
toward the Ottoman East.?
?Some people think of the term oriental as offensive or politically
incorrect, largely because of its perceived connection by some people
with nineteenth century European and American attitudes about the
region. In this world view, the East was seen as backwards, exotic,
and patriarchal, while the West was seen as logical, rational, and
??. Major objection to the use of oriental is chiefly limited to North
America. Its use is much less controversial in Europe, as well as in
Asia where, especially in south-east Asian countries, the word is in
comparatively widespread usage.?
For an interesting (and oft referenced) take on the subject, see this
Usenet posting (circa 1993) by Alan Hu:
On ?Asian? and ?Oriental? , Alan Hu
And this article on the same website:
Libraries Continue to Index Asian Americans Under ''Orientals'
As for the use of the term Oriental as it applies to food or rugs or
other inanimate objects, even the most sensitive people consider that
to be acceptable:
??make sure you don't use the word "Oriental" in reference to the
imperialists... at least not in Washington state. The Seattle Times
reports that the State of Washington passed a bill prohibiting
legislators from using the term "Oriental" to describe Asians in any
official correspondence, codes or legislation. The term may still be
used to describe food and rugs, but not people.?
Political Correctness and the Power of Names by Walter Nowotny
??The one [term] that is misused most often is "Oriental" instead of
"Asian" when referring to people. Oriental is correct when referring
to food, furniture or rugs, not when referring to people??
Political Correctness and Diversity in Public Speaking, By: Lenora Billings-Harris
So, to sum up, the term Oriental, when referring to a person, region,
or custom, is perceived as a derogatory relic of Imperialism by North
Americans (and some other countries), but is seen as an acceptable
descriptive term by Europeans and in many Asian countries.
Hope that clears things up for you. If anything I?ve said is confusing
let me know and I?ll be happy to clarify.
Thanks for your question.
Use of term oriental asian
Correctness oriental asian