The Word "Infidel"

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Michael, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I think first we'd need a means of identifying such. Would you say people who are more closely wedded to tradition and traditional roles are more likely to have thought terminating cliches as their crutch against cognitive dissonance? Or would you say that those unable to fit into their own societies, who rebel and find themselves on the outside looking in are more likely to need such crutches? When we say "cognitive dissonance" are we talking about those who are comfortable in their social milieu or those who are not? Do thought terminating cliches represent people who are adjusted to their social milieu or do they represent those who need excuses for not fitting in?
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2010
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    An amusing statement from one who does not follow it, and therefore is not in a much better position to understand that reason than I am.

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    And that's my point. I don't think the Hindus I meet here differ greatly from the ones back home in this regard. Few of them regard the essence of Hinduism as endless arguments over whether Ganesha (for example) is a real historical figure. Rather, it consists of adopting a way of life that honors the principles Ganesha and his colleauges--metaphorical or real (and a few of the newer ones were incontrovertibly real people)--represent.

    This is a clear distinction between Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions. Although Judaism perhaps comes the closest, by emphasizing law over doctrine. Reform congregations don't put a lot of effort into arguing with the atheists in their ranks, so long as they strive earnestly to live like good Jews.
    And it doesn't get a lot of traffic so I tend to not over-moderate when a discussion wanders off into another topic, as long as it remains scientific and/or scholarly.

    I'm also the Moderator of Arts and Culture, and the overlap between my two boards makes the job easier.
    Infidelis is an adjective meaning "unfaithful" in Classical Latin. As Rome became Christianized, "faith" came to have its modern religious meaning of "belief," so infidelis was also translated as "unbelieving." It's this word that the Vulgar Latin of what is now Italy inherited, and which underwent standard phonetic changes to become infidele in Modern Italian, with the usual paradigm of inflected endings for grammatical precision: noun, adjective, singular, plural, etc.

    It also came down into the other Romance languages, and in Middle French it was infidèle. Middle English and even Early Modern English adopted French words by the wagonload, so the respelling "infidel" became English. During the Crusades and the Reformation it became synonymous with "non-Christian"--however the word was used by each individual sect in those chaotic times. Later as Europe became more cosmopolitan the word was used to translate kafir in Arabic writings, acquiring its modern meaning of "anyone who does not share my religion."
    In other Romance languages, such as Spanish, French and Portuguese, an adjective can be freely used as a noun by simply preceding it with a definite or indefinite article. Just as el grande means "the big guy" in Spanish, so does l'infidele mean "the unbelieving person" in French.

    German also uses this construction (der Alte, the old guy), but English does not. However, since "infidel" is a borrowed foreign word, we have adopted it as a noun rather than an adjective. In fact in our language we have the reverse construction, in which a noun can be used as an adjective (e.g., beauty shop, science class), so "you and your infidel philosophy" is perfectly correct English.
     
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  5. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    There is no reason to think that the prevalence of thought-terminating cliches is any greater in any particular society or milieu. The posts that speculate about this based on sparse anecdotes are nothing more than exercises in bigotry. Absent some data that suggests thought-terminating cliches are anything other than uniformly widespread, this is all a red herring.
     
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  7. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, we need an interesting assay and some hard data.
    Which could be pretty difficult to obtain - thus, we need to be innovative.

    Any ideas?



    You know, something we can run on second year University Psychology students who are eager to please their supervisors and then generalize to the broader public - - Nobel prize in Economics anyone, anyone?

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  8. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    We don't really know much either way. Do words have the power of psychological influence? Of course they do. We've all heard of assetiveness therapy and the power of public speakers or the influence of charismatic ones. We even know how media and politicians use words to encourage cognitive dissonance. But are there societies where people are unable to see beyond the words because the cognitive dissonance itself is a crutch to them? The question is, how would we test that? How would we identify it? Some of them are pretty obvious [e.g. war on terror, tea party politics, caste system, homophobia] but not all

    Michaels thesis though fraught with some element of cognitive dissonance itself has some interesting possibilities

    Oh I don't know, I consider myself a representative of the Indian ethos myself. So yes, I do see how syncretism rather than competition can be a contribution to the phenomenon of faith

    I don't think you've met enough Hindus who are not westernised to have an opinion on that. I agree that most Indians regardless of religion are generally more tolerant, but they also maintain separate but distinct purely ethnocentric identities which some of them are willing to kill to defend. I think it is a mistake to underestimate the social norms which govern the Indian mind and which have led to the persistence of exploitation in the form of the caste system.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Fer sure. Using a cuss-word or an ethnic slur among strangers or in a formal setting will stop the conversation every time. Using it among hostile strangers will get you beaten up. Even a political insult.
    Surely cognitive dissonance occurs in every society, and its extent varies from individual to individual, based on the usual factors such as intelligence, education, upbringing, etc. I'd be surprised to find a whole society in which cognitive dissonance is qualitatively more powerful than in another. Of course this would not be the first time I've been surprised.

    Perhaps in the few remaining Stone Age (Paleolithic--no agriculture, or Neolithic--no cities) societies we will find a qualitative difference in the influence of family nurturing over public education.
    Indeed. The "human sciences" such as psychology and economics--even medicine!--are much less "hard" than the "hard sciences" such as physics and chemistry. They are very weak on one of the cornerstones of the Scientific Method: experimentation. Since the downfall of the Third Reich it's been really difficult to get permission to experiment on people.

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    Yeah, one thing which I have found to be universally true among all Indian expats is that they absolutely detest, and are embarrassed by, the caste system. They all have some really good personal reason for being here, but right after explaining that they will say, "And I am so glad to be in a place where caste doesn't matter." Even though apparently anyone whose family can afford to send him to college in America is from one of the "higher" castes.
     
  10. Red Devil Born Again Athiest Registered Senior Member

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    why are people today so afraid of descriptive terminology? Are we so afraid of the faceless unelected beurocrats of left wing origins who TELL us what we can or cannot say.

    Here in England we have a multi racial, multi religious community (some say far too many) and those in power pay lip service to the indigenous anglo saxon race but give others whatever they want. Thats racism.

    Here, near where I live, is a large pakistani community. We colelctively refer to them as 'paki'. This is not an insult. We also have a large Indian community which is sometimes refered to as 'ragheads' because of the fact they were, in the main, turbans.

    These terms are not insulting but descriptive. If I add a word to each like 'bloody' them I am being insulting.

    Infidel is, to my mind, a word that describes anybody not of the islamic faith. These people in our community of this faith, in particular the male youth, refer to Anglo saxons as white trash and actually tried to ban 'white trash' from an area of this city. Thats racism.

    Be not afraid to speak your mind
     
  11. Cifo Day destroys the night, Registered Senior Member

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    I see words like "infidel" as thought-terminating clichés because they are nouns (which are inanimate) compared to verbs (which are animate).

    Doesn't this occur very often —

    AL: What does Joe do for a living?
    BOB: Joe's an XYZ.
    AL: Oh ... uhh ... what does an XYZ do?

    This may bend the discussion toward noun-centered and verb-centered languages.

    Interestingly, atheists don't have beliefs, which consists of non-action.
     
  12. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Seen a lot of this as well, and also noticed that these types nevertheless marry exclusively from within their own caste (which is, invariably, Brahmin - never once met an Indian Hindu in the US of any other caste. The others have all been Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Jains). There's a definite disconnect - they recognize that it's a good thing there aren't a bunch of Dalits being starved to death in the streets, but are totally blase about maintaining the exclusivity and privilege of their own caste, and transplanting such to new countries. So it ends up being sort of perverse.
     
  13. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Exactly my point. And so this should preclude the pursuit of any sweeping generalizations about entire societies/polities, since the likely result is hollow bigotry.

    The issue here was supposed to be thought-terminating cliche, which is a mechanism used to quell cognitive dissonance (since said dissonance, if left unquelled, will eventually lead people to ask troublesome questions).

    You have your terminology backwards. The cliche is the crutch, here - cognitive dissonance is exactly the mental state that causes people to question the words that aren't adding up.

    What are "that" and "it?"

    Most thought-terminating cliches are really really obvious. Their entire point is to cut analysis short, so any time you encounter pithy little sentences where serious analysis ought to be, you're looking at a thought-terminating cliche. They are completely commonplace, and your focus on politically prejudicial ones is likely causing you to overlook the garden variety ones: "all's well that ends well," "the best defense is a good offense," "everyone is entitled to their opinion," or "you don't always get what you want."

    The point is that these are a regular feature of all human societies, and the examples of overtly-inculcated political cliches are actually only a tiny minority. There's a reason for their prevalence, and it's that people need ways to bypass cognitive dissonance in order to go about their daily lives. If you had to conclusively analyze every question that arose before deciding a course of action, you'd never get out of bed in the morning.

    Anyway, to prevent this from becoming an exercise in shallow bigotry, how about you go and identify some of the many obvious examples of thought-terminating cliches in political movements that you agree with (instead of just those that you don't)? That should improve your perspective.
     
  14. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    How's this as a recent example of thought-terminating cliche'? In response to why we were attacked on September 11th the then POTUS responded:

    "They hate our freedoms"
    - George W. Bush (2001)


    How perfect is this phrase? It's got "They/Us" it's got "Freedom/Slavery" it puts the blame and evil on Them and the Good and *actually my thought processes have ceased here for some reason...* we must bomb them - we're only defending our "freedom". Hell, there's really not much to think about now!


    Hey check this one out:
    From the essay 'Pacifism and the War':
    he that is not with me is against me
    - George Orwell (1942)

    2001 joint session of Congress:
    "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

    - George Bush Jr (2001)



    What do you guys think?
     
  15. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Here's a thought-terminating cliche' I believe. In response to US government giving foreign aid (Africa, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, etc...).
    Foreign aid is taking money from poor people here in the USA and giving it to rich people over there!
    - Ron Paul (2010)

    NOTE: Private donations are of course an individual's personal choice ... but, better yet, if so inclined, then get involved personally

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  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Not sure that qualifies as a cliche. It's more of a plain-old canard. Thought-terminating cliches are not the only anti-analytic parts of rhetoric, let's recall.

    Yeah, that one's a classic. Orwell spent a lot of time thinking about this particular issue. The single most definitive literary instance of thought-terminating cliches is the Newspeak language from 1984, which aims explicitly to reduce all human thought into a sequence of thought-terminating cliches.

    But, again, people should resist the allure of the politicized examples. There are plenty of pedestrian ones: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," or "it takes one to know one," to pick a couple of obvious examples.
     
  17. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Difficult to see how that's any kind of cliche, given that the sentiment is unique, to my experience. The usual cliches about "wealth transfer" or "redistribution" usually have to do with demonizing the poor, not with suggesting that the recipients are rich.
     
  18. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Oh shoot, I was listening to Ron Paul at the Indiana University Bloomington (see above

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    Hmmm.... how about: Mother knows best
     
  19. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, that one and "father knows best" are prolific examples.

    How about "there are no stupid questions."
     
  20. Red Devil Born Again Athiest Registered Senior Member

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    only stupid answers

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  21. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    Evolution is Just a Theory
    (confuses lay usage of theory with the scientific lexicon - used to pacify creationists)

    How about:
    Santa knows whose naughty and nice
    ?!?!

    Maybe these don't fit???
     
  22. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    I prefer "only stupid people." :]
     
  23. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, that's a good example.

    If anything, that's a thought-provoking cliche. As in, who is this Santa guy, and how does he know these things, and what are his criteria? Also not sure it really qualifies as a cliche, since its original meaning doesn't seem to wear out with overuse...

    One more: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
     

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