Watch Your Language!

This piece also appeared in the Fall 2009 issue.

By Alice Feng

Governor David Paterson with Assemblywoman Grace Meng at a hospital in New York.

The word “oriental” is often used to describe rugs, but people have used the word to describe people of Asian descent since the 18th century in Europe.  Europeans created the concept of the “Orient” to decribe the location of Asia in relation to Europe, which is east of Europe.  As a result, Asia is also known as the “Far East” or “the East.”  However, this concept only makes sense when applied to the relative location of Asia to Europe.  For those who are aware of the connotation of the word “oriental,” being called a rug in a roundabout way is offensive.


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