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Q: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: dusty95-ga
List Price: $14.00
Posted: 20 Jul 2005 07:30 PDT
Expires: 19 Aug 2005 07:30 PDT
Question ID: 545754
Is the word Oriental offensive and not politically correct? For
instance, on menus I can order an Oriental chicken salad. Should the
menu instead have an Asian chicken salad in order to be politically
correct? I would like references from valid sources and a good summary
of why this is or is not politically correct and/or an offensive term.
Subject: Re: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 20 Jul 2005 09:52 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi dusty95-ga, 

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
more modern?.

??. 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.  


Search terms: 

Use of term oriental asian
Correctness oriental asian
Correctness oriental
dusty95-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
From: research_help-ga on 20 Jul 2005 08:05 PDT
From what I understand, the term oriental can be used to identify a
thing like an oriental rug, or oriental rice.  However, when referring
to a person, it is politically correct to refer to Asian students, the
Chinese teacher, or the Japanese doctor.
Subject: Re: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
From: research_help-ga on 20 Jul 2005 08:08 PDT
I noticed something ironic about your question, you offered $14 for an
answer.  Was there any specific reason why?  If you didn't know, 14 is
considered the most unlucky number in some Asian cultures.  In the
past, I was able to get a corner apartment that I wanted because the
people who were first to get it were Chinese and did not want it once
they realized it was apt # 1014.
Subject: Re: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
From: dusty95-ga on 20 Jul 2005 08:34 PDT
I posted the question for $14 just because I thought it would get the
question answered quickly. That is interested that 14 is an unlucky
number in some Asian cultures..I didn't know that.
Subject: Re: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
From: eirikr_utlendi-ga on 22 Sep 2005 11:10 PDT
The pronunciation of the number 4 is a homophone for the word "death"
in Chinese and Japanese (C: 'si' falling tone = 4, 'si' low tone =
"death"; J: both are pronounced "shi"), and possibly other languages
too, and is naturally enough avoided as bad luck.  14 is a homophone
for "it's death" in Chinese (but not Japanese) ('shr si', rising then
falling tone = 14, 'shr si', falling then low tone = "it's death").


Subject: Re: Oriental verbiage offensive / not politically correct
From: trumpetshell-ga on 19 Jun 2006 20:44 PDT
I think it is offensive to call a person, mainly because oriental has
to do with eastern is the opposite of occidental. But you wouldn't
call a person of european descent or citizen occidental. You would say
european, american or the respective country. It's proper language
usage. Also it's an outdates language that europeans use to use during
european expansion and colonization. It made asians feel as if we were
conquests, not people.

As for the four. In korean hanja (adopted chinese characters) four is
pronounced "sa" which means sounds like death "sa" also. Koreans have
two numeric systems though. One comes from ancient chinese, probably
through neighboring contact. But the pure korean word for four is net.

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