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The pot...

Posted by Amos on January 23, 2000

In Reply to: The pot... posted by ESC on January 23, 2000

: : : : That "Black and White" thread got so curved that it hurt my neck to read it. So I am taking the liberty of starting another one. I, too, have felt the wrath of Amos. He accused me of being a drinker I believe. But you have to admit the man does turn a nice phrase. "I should like to believe that the rustle I think I hear in the echoing silence is the sound of dried leaves on the dead vine of prejudice but I have fears that it's merely Winter waiting for a Spring of luxuriant growth."Is that original?

: : : : But any how I agree with Bob that we are getting way off the point of discussion. Is the phrase "pot calling the kettle black" a racist phrase? When the question was first posted, I said, "No. It's not a racist phrase. Then I did some research that lead me to believe that, well, maybe it is. I will repeat, in part, what I posted: ".Usually the source of the phrase is given as Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' and simply as 'The pot calls the kettle black,' but another version of Don Quixote comes out as: 'Said the pot to the kettle, get away black-face!'."

: : : : I think an important question is, when did the black/white animosity begin? I know we all started in the Garden of Eden, but for a while thereafter we were on separate continents. When did we get together again and start hurling insults? Does this old saying pre-date racial slurs against blacks?

: : : : As an aside, I want to note that many times people unknowingly use old phrases that are slurs. (See the entry about Dutch. Those guys have it rough.) For example, a few weeks ago I overheard one person thanking a second for a favor. She said, "That was mighty white of you." Now that's a phrase that should be purged.

: : : : And another thing. Amos Jackson. Jim Brown. Richard Roundtree. ??

: : : A few points:

: : : 1. The phrase is original

: : : 2. With all due respect to your religious beliefs I doubt many share your certainty that the creation story in the Bible accurately reflects the origins of the human species.

: : : 3. Perhaps those who are curious, as to the origins of black-white animosity, might consider, as one contributory cause, the fact that thousands of black African people were carried to these shores in chains, bred like cattle and treated worse that dogs for several generations and only in recent times have their descendants been reluctantly accepted as members of the human race - probably.

: : : 4. I trust you're not implying that I contribute under the names of Roundtree or Jim Brown.

: : :
: : : Amos

: : Forget what I said about the Garden of Eden. I do believe we are all children of Father Adam and Mother Eve. But putting that aside, we humans started out in the same tribe. Then people spread out over the world and the different races developed. Can we agree on that? That's what I meant.

: : If there is a professional linguist onboard, please jump in anytime. What seems obvious to me is, animosity between two groups of people (and the accompanying racist phrases and slurs) can't begin until a) they have regular contact and b) there is some sort of conflict. Again, look at the example of the Dutch and English. And another example, Texans and Mexicans. These conflicts don't date back to the beginning of time. They started at some point in history.

: : When did "black" come to mean a dark-skinned person and when did being "black" become an insult? If we could get a fix on that (1400s, 1500s, 1600s, just when?) and a fix on when "pot called the kettle black" was originated, we would get an idea about whether the saying is racists?

: : Did racial slurs about black people start with the beginning of the slave trade? Did it start earlier? African-Americans were relatively powerless while slavery was in effect. Did the racial slurs/phrases become in vogue after the Civil War and whites began to resent the blacks new-found freedom?

: : I am trying to get the subject back to the history of language.

: : No Amos, I don't think you're posing as Richard or Jim. I was just suspicious of the African-American sounding names that popped up all of a sudden.

: PS. Here's what I'm talking about. Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, the source of the phrase according to one reference, lived from 1547-1616. ".Usually the source of the phrase is given as Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' and simply as 'The pot calls the kettle black,' but another version of Don Quixote comes out as: 'Said the pot to the kettle, get away black-face!'." According to "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner, "black face" meaning a dark-skinned person didn't come into usage until 1704.

You mind is a garden of pretty flowers, trimmed lawns, rose covered trellises and busy, useful, non biting insects, all fanned by a gentle breeze which wafts the heady scent of evening flowers to every favorite seat in every corner of a well fenced paradise.

For excitement and education why not find the key that opens that rusty lock in the door, venture out, and explore the real world at close quarters.

A model, constructed of comforting passages from the Good Book and leavened with regular ingestion of inspirational Readers Digest articles and half heard conversations blown over the garden wall, may not do justice to the reality that is out there.

Notwithstanding all of the above, and having reread the original thread, I find myself in agreement with 'Teach': let's leave this matter of colour, race and ethnicity to another forum better able to deal with it and here let's enjoy the pursuit of '.exploring the glorious eccentricities of the English language.'