To describe people accurately and consistently is impossible. Words cannot stretch to cover all we want to say over the years. So says Charles C. Mann, whose recent history 1493 traces the mash up of peoples around the globe once Christopher Columbus set foot on the gateway to China in the Caribbean.
We are familiar with the confusion surrounding “Indian, “Native American” and the Canadian-born “First Nations.”
But did you know the word “European” traces back to only 1639. So what do you call all those people from England, France and Spain who flooded the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries?
Cultural and linguistic terms, when they are not completely inaccurate, often mean different things to different groups, says Mann. And what was accurate 250 years ago may be inaccurate today.
Another most interesting book that addresses this subject in concentrated depth is the surprisingly hilarious History of While People by Nell Irvin Painter