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to ask if the term "eskimo" is politically incorrect?

(52 Posts)
Joolyjoolyjoo Fri 24-Jun-11 20:05:02

Genuine question! DS (3) came home from nursery the other day telling me he knew how to build an igloo, having watched a film about it. After a blow by blow description of cutting ice blocks, I asked him if he knew what you call people who live in igloos. After initially saying "bears!", he told me that "indicators" lived in igloos. I was slightly puzzled and asked if he meant eskimos. He disagreed. Next day when I dropped him off he was telling his nursery teacher about the igloos, and I was laughing and said he was telling me that indicators lived in igloos. the teacher laughed and told him they were Inuits (penny dropped!)

Now I'm a bit paranoid that the term eskimo is somehow frowned upon! Have I missed something? Is it like "red Indians" now being native Americans? Please don't rip me to shreds if I am being very un-PC- I genuinely want to know!

I thought it was Inuits. I think 'Eskimo' translates as 'eats raw fish' but I could be waaaay off the mark.

That was no help at all was it?

Alambil Fri 24-Jun-11 20:07:32

I think it is like Red Indians / native Americans.... no idea when or why it happened though

snicker Fri 24-Jun-11 20:08:58

eskimo isn't incorrect. Its rude

inuit refers to a specific group, it isn't a collective term for all people who used to be referred to as eskimo but it is often used as such as there isn't an alternative afaik.

DoMeDon Fri 24-Jun-11 20:09:06

I thought Eskimo was a blanket term for the different tribes and Inuit was a tribe, but the word Eskimo was not PC now as it was used in a degroatory way.

edwinbear Fri 24-Jun-11 20:10:09

I think, all eskimos are Inuits, but not all Inuits are eskimos - and they don't use the term eskimo in Canada or Greenland apparently.

kaid100 Fri 24-Jun-11 20:16:13

The "correct" terminology of this group of people has changed a couple of times. Originally English-speakers used the word "Eskimo", the etymology of which is obscure (one possibility is that it means "snowshoe netter") but in the eighties it became a common belief that it was an insult meaning "eater of raw meat". In fact, no linguist now believes this to be true but at the time it was accepted, and the native word "Inuit" replaced it in meaning. More recently, it became clear that the word "Inuit" originally meant only a part of the people to which "Eskimo" originally referred, and "Eskimo" is now starting to come back in.

TotalChaos Fri 24-Jun-11 20:18:09

IIRC Inuit is meant to be more PC than eskimo, but isn't really, I believe a better term is Inupiat. (but just got that from Alaska set crime fiction so not the most authoritative source)

Joolyjoolyjoo Fri 24-Jun-11 20:21:55

Wow! Thanks guys- I really had no idea! Why is the word "eskimo" seen as derogatory? So the acceptable word is now Inuit? But if not all recently-known-as-eskimos are Inuits, would they not be insulted by being called Inuits? And what should they now be called?

(Although I realise it is unlikely I will meet one in Western Scotland grin)

chibi Fri 24-Jun-11 20:24:06

There are lots of different people in tge arctic who would once have been called eskimo. Innupiat in alaska, dene in nwt, inuit in the eastern canadian arctic, innu in labrador, sami in finland, and more. some people are happy to self identify as eskimo.

There is no one blanket term that can be used (except maybe circumpolar people) because they are all different peoples/nations

kaid100 Fri 24-Jun-11 20:26:07

I suspect that in the eighties it became seen as derogatory because in the eighties every existing piece of racial terminology became seen as derogatory. Actually most of the time it was the previous attitudes that were derogatory rather than the actual words used, but the words became seen as derogatory by association.

Joolyjoolyjoo Fri 24-Jun-11 20:37:38

Jings- this has been since the 80s?? So I've been going around being offensive for 30 years?? blush

<wracks brains to think of incidences where I could inadvertantly have offended people, and realises that thankfully Inuits and their ilk are not a frequent topic of conversation>

But still! Am appalled at my ignorance of this! blush

JudysJudgement Fri 24-Jun-11 20:40:04

lol at eskimo not being politically correct

oh well, i dont meet many on a day to day basis so wont let it worry me unduly

midoriway Fri 24-Jun-11 21:07:32

kaid100; A very similar thing has happened in Australia. In the late 80's it suddenly became very un-pc to refer to Australia's indigenous people as Aboriginals, and koori became the appropriate term. This went on for years, until it came out that koori meant people in only a minority of aboriginal languages, mostly tribes to the north of Australia. These tribes seem to have more power in the world of indigenous Australian politics. Other tribes started to be a bit pissed off that one lot had managed to hijack the terminology. So, aboriginal is now finding favour again.

pinkthechaffinch Fri 24-Jun-11 21:11:38

interesting post chibi

Tenebrist Fri 24-Jun-11 21:15:28

If they're Canadian can you not just call them First Nations (as a blanket term for all pre-European groups in the country)? Then Inuit as a subdivision.

somethingwitty82 Fri 24-Jun-11 21:22:39

Isn't first nations a bit supremacist? Besides they were not the first people to arrive there, their ancestors moved in like everyone else, like the aztecs did the waztecs over and then were done over themselves etc etc

FreudianSlipper Fri 24-Jun-11 21:22:58

i am not sure

i was told when i used the term oriental that was wrong, i was in the states at the time. i asked my vietnamese friend and she didn't understand why either

my woodwork teacher nicknamed me eskimo nell, now that is very wrong i was only 12 at the time had not idea who she was, asked my mum when we had friends over for dinner, all were amused until my mum asked why

Omigawd Fri 24-Jun-11 21:28:23

I can't keep up any more - when was "Eskimo" made officially un-PC? I was taught that it was the anglicisation of Usqimaugh or something like that, which was "people" or similar in one of their languages.

MotherMucca Fri 24-Jun-11 21:30:33

S'Inuit, innit?

Joolyjoolyjoo Fri 24-Jun-11 21:31:09

See, my Inuit/ First Nations/ igloo-dwelling peoples knowledge is obviously completely and woefully lacking- who is Eskimo Nell??

Only eskimo reference I can think of is the old skipping rhyme:
"Ma maw's a millionaire
Blue eyes and curly hair
Sitting among the Eskimos
Playing a game o' dominoes
Ma maw's a millionaire!"

feel like I am being thoroughly educated on this thread!

Tenebrist Fri 24-Jun-11 21:31:15

If you want to think First Nations is supremacist I'm not going to argue, but that is the accepted and official Canadian term for, ahem, the 'red Injuns'. It's all about trying to put a positive spin on a (non-white) group who were disadvantaged and discriminated against for so many years.

Goodynuff Fri 24-Jun-11 21:32:56

'In Alaska, the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat. No universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, is accepted across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples.[1] In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is considered pejorative by the natives and has been replaced by the term Inuit. The Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, sections 25 and 35 recognized the Inuit as a distinctive group of aboriginal peoples in Canada'


'The term First Nations (most often used in the plural) has come into general use for the indigenous peoples of the Americas located in what is now Canada, except for the Arctic-situated Inuit, and peoples of mixed European-First Nations ancestry called Métis. The singular, commonly used on culturally politicised reserves, is the term First Nations person (when gender-specific, First Nations man or First Nations woman). A more recent trend is for members of various nations to refer to themselves by their tribal or national identity only, e.g., "I'm Haida," or "We're Kwantlens," in recognition of the distinctiveness of First Nations ethnicities'
from Wiki, but it is correct, hth grin

Eskimoo Fri 24-Jun-11 21:34:30

Hope not.............

somethingwitty82 Fri 24-Jun-11 21:38:39

At uni we were taught the inhabitants that crossed over from siberia were paeloeskimos and around 1000 years later were joined by Paeleoinuits who stayed lower south,all these and the meso-americans were essentially related mongoloids so pretty much the same 'people'.

The euphemism treadmill is exhausting and what is acceptable now can be deemed offensive 10 years later, it makes no sense.

When i was a nipper our dog was called the n-word (he was a black lab) and in S.Africa my aunts husband referred to himself and his peeps as negros in the way we use black but his daughter who now lives in America thinks black and negro are offensive and is a' person of colour'

I dont believe esko-inuits to be litigious so I wouldn't worry about it

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