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Watching our choice of words

Gavin Hsu | Sunday, November 10, 2013

A disconcerting item showed up in The Observer this morning, titled “Students celebrate Asiatic culture” (Nov. 8). Overall, the article by Christian Myers is well-written and expresses a positive message about exposing the voices of different cultures at Notre Dame. However, the problem lies within the title, where the term “Asiatic” is used. I don’t want to make too big a deal out of one word, so I’ll try to keep this short.
From a quick search on Internet dictionaries, it is clear that the term “Asiatic” is outdated and offensive. In addition, the Cambridge Dictionary defines “Asiatic” as “relating to Asia, especially when considering its geography or its plants and animals, rather than social or cultural matters.” If Asians are people and not exotic animals, then we should not be referring to their culture as “Asiatic.”
Sure, it’s not uncommon for writers to make careless mistakes, but the fact that this was approved by editors is discomforting. From my experience, most Notre Dame students are conscientious people who warmly embrace diversity on campus. Let’s hope to not see this word used in this way again.

Gavin Hsu
Keenan Hall
Nov. 8