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The "etymological" joke about Belarus and mysterious "White Russia"… - Learning Languages Community [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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[Oct. 13th, 2004|06:13 pm]
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[rydel23]
[mood |curiouscurious]

The "etymological" joke about Belarus and mysterious "White Russia" - is it really funny or simply offensive?
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(Screened comment)
[User Picture]From: rydel23
2004-10-14 04:35 am (UTC)
Sorry, but I am screening this.
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[User Picture]From: nekokaze
2004-10-13 07:45 pm (UTC)
I understand being upset being called by a variation on the name of an oppressive other country, [though I suppose "Rus" refers most technically historically to Ukraine (it being the area based around Kiev), but...] but I find no real reasoning for saying "untranslated is okay but translated is bad". It's not particularly funny, but it's not particularly more offensive than the official name for the country.
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[User Picture]From: rydel23
2004-10-14 04:33 am (UTC)
I see your point. Maybe you are right. But I personally and many of my friends find this reference or this confusion between Rus'(Ruthenia) and modern-day Russia not pleasant at all.

By the wya, I got an email from Francois Picard @eurosport.com. They corrected the mistake. Now the headline goes "Italy down Belarus to steady nerves".
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-10-14 01:02 am (UTC)
Your team lost then?
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[User Picture]From: rydel23
2004-10-14 04:12 am (UTC)
They did.
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[User Picture]From: targaff
2004-10-14 01:46 am (UTC)
Boo.
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[User Picture]From: rydel23
2004-10-14 04:12 am (UTC)

No more "boo"

Upd: I got an email from Francois Picard @eurosport.com. They corrected the mistake. Now the headline goes "Italy down Belarus to steady nerves".
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(Screened comment)
[User Picture]From: cokemangs
2004-10-14 07:38 am (UTC)
This comment was the comment at the top of the page that was screened--I'll just have to keep reposting it for anyone who's interested...

Funny, with a veeeeeeery long and drawn out political debate. I think targaff was right. He said:
"What annoys me about your intermittent posts across LJ's language communities is that there is essentially no language aspect involved in what you're talking about: you're essentially using the language as a springboard to push a purely political agenda. Any sympathy I had for your cause was eroded long ago by your approach and attitude, and while it's evident from the other posts in reply that there was relatively little from others to start with - probably because they understand all too well what you seem not to be able to grasp - I assure you that you'll find it too disappears pretty sharpish. No-one - and I literally mean *no-one* - means any insult when they talk about White Russia, and to be quite honest its roots are completely irrelevant to its usage today; the only ones incapable of disassociating the two are you and your compadres in their attempts to further a cause that on a global level is meaningless.
...
Actually I could have summed that up a lot more succinctly:

(a) go outside;
(b) breathe some fresh air;
(c) consider seeing a shrink specialising in obsession."

While point C may be a little in excess, this joke doesn't seem to actually have anything to do with a language other than a small nuance of reference to your country. And if you look at the etymology, to 90% of the world, it WILL mean "White Russia" not "White Ruthenia".

If someone started calling me an American (which, when I'm not at home or when I'm talking to someone online overseas, happens FAR too often) it's hardly the end of the world. Sure they're the pigheaded bullies of the world (no offence yanks, but look at GW--shouldn't be stirring my own pot...) but I'm not going to freak on someone because of it.

Hardly the end of the world. And I still think it's somewhat amusing.
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[User Picture]From: rydel23
2004-10-14 07:47 am (UTC)
> I'll just have to keep reposting it for anyone who's interested...

I don't see why you should behave like a spammer.

And what does that have to do with learning languages?

> with a veeeeeeery long and drawn out political debate

(1) I wonder what's the agenda? And what's the political cause here? And which party am I rooting for?

And what does that have to do with learning languages?

> (a) go outside;
> (b) breathe some fresh air;
> (c) consider seeing a shrink specialising in obsession.

And what does that have to do with learning languages?

> to 90% of the world, it WILL mean "White Russia" not "White Ruthenia".

Sorry, didn't get it. 90% of what? And how do you measure meaning by percentages? That seems some truly revolutionary concept.

> If someone started calling me an American (which, when I'm not at home or when I'm talking to someone online overseas, happens FAR too often) it's hardly the end of the world. Sure they're the pigheaded bullies of the world (no offence yanks, but look at GW--shouldn't be stirring my own pot...) but I'm not going to freak on someone because of it.

And what does that have to do with learning languages?

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[User Picture]From: _themockturtle_
2004-10-14 08:35 am (UTC)
I think this argument as gone a bit too far. You take a politically incorrect joke as an insult, and in doing so, you completely contradict the primary purpose of it. In being politically incorrect, we are not attempting to draw lines between people, or to shame the memory of people who have been wronged, we are attempting to soften the blow and show that what used to be 'slurs' are no longer. Homosexuals, Women, and any racial group you can think of call themselves what you would think of as politically incorrect. The words are harmful to them only when used negatively, when used by someone who means them harm. And certainly, Eurosport meant no harm. Politics do not matter in sports (at least they do not prevent games from taking place, which is what I meant, they do provide quite a bit of rivalry), they made a pun, and why not?

Your claim is that they disregard those that were killed, the horrors that occured... but they are not attempting to profit off of calling Belarus White Russia. Of course, the official name is the Republic of Belarus. Should we call the nation that, so there's not confusion? I don't see the Swiss getting pissed off when we don't call them the Helvetic Confederation. And Mexico? It is in fact, the United States of Mexico, yet when we say the US, we automatically shun the great nation of Mexico by automatically referring to the USA. Do they complain? When I say Bosnia, what do I refer to? Or Yugoslavia? Or Upper Volta? Congo? Zaire? Admittedly, White Russian is an obsolete term, but as are some of those names I placed above, and yet I, as a politically conscious, but not correct person will use them.

In English, we recognize no nation or area as Ruthenia, unless we are speaking of a historical entity. In English, Ruthenia corresponds to Russia. Therefore, in English, the compound Belarus, White-Ruthenia, is White Russia. We could call the Ukraine Little Russia, but that name change happened so long ago, I don't think it would be of any interest. I don't know any Ukrainians, but if I did, I would ask them if they found that offensive. I have a hunch they wouldn't.

Under the guise of discussing translation, your post is weak. Were your discussion about the etymology of country names, perhaps it would be of interest, but you must face the fact that country names are translated everyday, and for a person in a second language, there is no political connotation.
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[User Picture]From: cokemangs
2004-10-14 11:31 am (UTC)
Sweet, good commenting!
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[User Picture]From: targaff
2004-10-14 02:25 pm (UTC)
I don't know any Ukrainians, but if I did, I would ask them if they found that offensive. I have a hunch they wouldn't.

According to one of the links he provided, they do.

This also being the same article that shows the term White Russia in English pre-existed any of the things that make it so offensive to him in the first place, of course...
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[User Picture]From: jacinth21
2004-10-25 03:09 pm (UTC)
I know a good deal of people from Belarus and none of them found it offensive. Actually, one of them is the one who introduced me to the term in reference to where she came from...
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[User Picture]From: rydel23
2004-10-25 03:15 pm (UTC)
I believe you.
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