July 21, 2003
By any other name

I didn't realize when I floated my lokayata idea that another blogger, Amaravati, pointed out the Sanskrit word adevin. Adevin, coming from a combination of a- (not) and deva (god), is really the Sanskrit translation of "atheist." In fact, it's really the same word, because the Greek theos and the Sanskrit deva come from the same Indo-European root, something like teu. (The Latin word for God, deus, as well as the Roman goddess Diana, the Greek god Zeus and the Nordic god Tiu [as in Tuesday] are also all thought to have come from this root.)

Amaravati dissects the meaning of lokayata in more detail (though he spells it lokaayata). He adds:

In the end all these terminological games are just that - games. They are not going to change the standing of lokaayata-s in the eyes of religious bigots. Terms like gay, African-American, etc. have not decreased homophobia or racism. Look how gay has come to mean 'bad'. "Ewwww, that's SO gay!" Womyn, -person as a suffix, and now bright invite derision.

True, although that may be missing the point. This seems to be more a reflection of how these groups view themselves. For a long time "black" was considered an insult, so "colored" or "negro" were euphemisms to avoid saying that (though it was a bit silly in the latter case, because "negro" is just the Spanish word for black). Calling oneself "black" was saying that there's nothing wrong with dark skin. "African-American" reflects a more recent interest in the African heritage, although I doubt it's ever going to replace "black" (it's just too darn long, mainly).

Names are sort of like clothes: they're part of your image, your identity, your self-expression. You want your clothes to give the image of yourself that you most want others to see. Not everyone is going to like what they see, but that doesn't mean it's futile to choose your clothes with care.

Posted by Camassia at July 21, 2003 09:56 AM | TrackBack

Thank God I'm down wid mah cultural identity.

Posted by: Katherine on July 22, 2003 09:38 PM
Post a comment
Hi! I'd love to know your thoughts, but please read the rules of commenting:
- You must enter a valid email address
- No sock puppets
- No name-calling or obscene language


Email Address:



Remember info?