We should stop using inappropriate words
Stabroek News
November 22, 2001

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Dear Editor,

There are several words which are considered unparliamentary and are not used in the British parliament. In Guyana two such words were banned from use in our parliament in the late 60s, they are "lie" and "stooge".

But there are other words which have a social stigma which are used in Guyana and which are insulting or exhibit the inability of the speaker to use appropriate language.

Three such words are "Blackman, Coolie, and Buckman". The use of these words should be prohibited by an act of parliament.

Any person who is Black be they Arabs, Black skinned Caribs of Central America, dark skinned Indians of Madras India or the Black people of Africa are all Black people. In Guyana the user uses it to refer to a particular ethnic group.

The word "Coolie" was probably a Chinese term for people who do physical labour. The Portuguese used the term for Chinese porters in their warehouses in China and in India 400 years ago. Our historian traces the word to be of the Tamil language, where it means wages. Be that as it may, a "Coolie" is a person who does manual unskilled work and is paid by the hour. In Jamaica the word "Coolie" was banned in the 1950s.

The North American "Deer" of which one species was known as the "Buck" was used in trade when the Pilgrim Fathers landed in Plymouth North America in 1620. They had to trade with the Indians and as such one "Buck skin" was equal to a portion of a certain commodity. Some commodities were equal to several Buckskins. The American dollar is still referred to as "Bucks".

However, the North American Buck was very swift. As such, when the Europeans came to Guyana they discovered the dexterity and swiftness of the aborigines in the forests. This is why this term "Buck man" became appropriate to identify them.

Most unfortunately the term "buckman" is often used in Guyana to suggest that the Amerindians and interior residents are inferior, unintelligent, not civilized and of low social standard.

Parents, guardians, social workers and teachers should try to imbibe in our society the avoidance of these terms in the hope of enhancing national cohesiveness.

Yours faithfully,

Isahak Basir C.C.H