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Re: I think Ed may have a point--He sure does, however...

Posted by Bruce Kahl on October 21, 2002

In Reply to: I think Ed may have a point posted by Word Camel on October 20, 2002

: : : : It meant someone who gave something then wanted it back.

: : : : Just guessing, but with this meaning, p'raps it stems from the fact that certain Amerind cultures have a vastly different notion of property ownership than EuroAm culture.

: : : : "I want to grow wheat on this field."
: : : : "Sure go ahead."
: : : : Next year the tribe is encamped there.
: : : : "You said I could grow wheat here."
: : : : "Yes and you did. Now I am spending the summer here."

: : : If you want to know what the American Indians, whom you all acknowledge are the source of this phrase,consider its meaning to be. Ask one. Who should know better than they, the true meaning of Indian giver?. You will find, as I have, that it stems from the white man giving to the Indian, only to take back the gift when it suited him to do so. This happened countless times, in land (which ironically the Indian already owned), in material gifts, and in promises.
: : : ES

: : It really does depend on which American Indian you ask, most have never heard of the phrase.

: I grew up with Ed's understanding of the meaning and have subsequently questioned all my relatives (none of whom are American Indians but live in close proximity to many) who share the same understanding. I think it's just possible there could be regional differences in how it's understood.

It is not regional.
While it's true that the European settlers had a far worse reputation when it came to trustworthiness than the Indians did, the victors in history usually get to make up the idioms, so it's doubtful that "Indian giver" refers to the manner in which the settlers treated the Indians. It would be a quite a stretch to credit 19th century European settlers with the honesty to have recognized that they, and not the Indians, were the "Indian givers" in most cases.
---from the Word Detective