powwow

Discuss word origins and meanings.

powwow

Post by Joseph » Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:09 am

A co-worker said we should have a "powwow". Obviously she was innocently referring to us having a meeting about a current subject. I told her that I thought her use of the word "powwow" was inappropriate and politically incorect. I felt that use of the word powwow for the purpose of having a meeting had a negative reflection on a Native American ritual and lessend the importance of the meaning of the word. I seemed to have convinced everybody that I was correct and they have since stopped using the word "powwow" to refer to a meeting. After searching your site, as well as other sites, I have yet to find the use of this word in today's context inappropriate.

Please tell me what you think and why you think I thought it to be innapropriate. Are we just "oversensitive" to anything outside of one's own culture?
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powwow

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:51 am

Please tell me what you think and why you think I thought it to be innapropriate.
.. you have been brainwashed by the insecure and unrepresentative politically correct lobby who seem to have this simplistic notion that if everyone is made to feel guilty about using certain words then all the World's woes will be fixed and history made new .. they have recruited their own brand of zealot who will take the superior position in all debates and declare any word or action they feel insecure about as being "politically incorrect" without being able to give any cogent reason as to why .. I am reminded for instance that several months ago the word barbecue was declared politically incorrect as there was a folk etymology doing the rounds that made some reference to roasting negro slaves .. totally without substance but enough for any PC zealot to charge in ..
Are we just "oversensitive" to anything outside of one's own culture?
.. I would replace the words Are we with Am I .. hopefuly more and more people are asking themselves this question in regard to the justification for political correctness .. hopefully more and more people are seeing that the agenda for PC has been twisted and perverted for many singular causes .. history cannot be changed and attempting to make an entire culture feel guilty about perceived wrongs committed against some other culture at some time in the past will never bring about harmony ..

. in the case of powwow one might also ask why is it any different to any other of the thousands of words that have been absorbed into the English language from many cultures? .. why is it held to be disrespectful to use this perfectly good word for meeting ?

WoZ of Aus 08/02/06
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:04 am

One solution to the difficulty presented here would be to maintain an ironic postmodern distance from any suspect term by signalling one's superior awareness of its (potentially) problematic status, using the familiar "rabbit ears" gesture that consists of raising one's hands as high as one's shoulders while speaking the word and scratching the air a couple of times with one's fore- and middle fingers, as if to enclose one's utterance of the term in quotation marks.

Among one's peers, this kind of gesticulatory "juju" (there! Did you notice how effective it is?) distinguishes the practitioner of the technique as a person of rare discernment and sensitivity, while still permitting them the full range of expression that he/she has previously enjoyed -- this time without guilt. Think of it as being a sophisticated kind of little white lie (I use it all the time, and it works wonders! ;-)

An example may help to demonstrate its utility in softening difficult or unpleasant realities. Just visualize the rabbit-ear thing every time you get to some quotation marks in the following.

The scene is President G W Bush delivering his State of the Union address:

"Fellow Americans" , "some of you" have "expressed concerns" [almost everyone who takes an interest in such things in this country is getting freaked out] about this year's "national budget" [my fondness for heedlessly ratcheting up my expense account].

Let me "assure" you , the country's finances are in "good hands" [my hand-picked team of Enron trainers and PR twisters are in total charge of your tax dollars]. With "perseverance" and "hard work" , we shall overcome the "obstacles" that stand in our path [I'll keep on doing what I like, whenever I like] to "achieving fiscal responsibility" [I don't know what that means, but my advisers have told me it sounds good in a speech] even during these "uncertain times" of our nation's "War on Terror" [even though I didn't have much of an enemy at the start of my Presidency, I've made damned sure that half the planet now hates America as well as me].

The "brave men and women" of this nation's armed forces [the suckers I've sent abroad to do my dirty work and die, for all I care] are doing a "sterling job" [they are doing their poor best, despite and because of my gross incompetence] of protecting our "vital interests" [making sure America controls the overseas resources that are the lifeblood of our wasteful economy] and "keeping America safe" [retaliating first against the enemies that I helped to create].

You get the idea...
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powwow

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Wed Feb 08, 2006 8:43 am

Do you not realise just how offensive rabbit-lovers may find your non-PC submission, Erik? Are you not afraid of being the next victim of the "Warren Terror"?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:38 am

That's a really hare-brained notion, Edwin.
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Post by hsargent » Thu Feb 09, 2006 3:46 am

Back to Powwow. I have never thought it was insensitive or negative. It refers to a meeting of the leaders or chiefs. We are too worried about politically correct but this is beyond any concern I've heard anyone express.
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Post by Phil White » Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:04 am

Harry,

Many people on this forum regard me as being unnecessarily PC. Unsurprisingly, I have a different take. I do, however, try to be sensitive to what may be regarded as offensive or tactless and try avoid such things where I can (after nearly a quarter of a century of practice, I still get it wrong often enough).

I have difficulties understanding where the offence might lie in using "powwow" for a business meeting. I know insufficient, however, about Native American culture and ritual to be able to judge sensibly. If we were to remove all loan words from the English language, it would be far poorer, and to suggest removing the well established "powwow" would probably also entail removing words such as mocassin, caucus, hickory, kayak and totem, all of which have been borroewed from various Native American languages and some of which now carry meanings beyond those carried in the original languages.

The only people who could really answer your question are members of the Native American community, preferably from the Narraganset community, from whom, I believe, the word derives. If the community or significant numbers of them are genuinely offended, then it should be avoided or used with extreme care.

Along with the many positive developments, the worst excesses of what has become known as PC have brought some utter nonsense, and in my (sadly insufficiently informed) opinion, this is one example.
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Thu Feb 09, 2006 2:27 pm

I should like to corroboree your pronouncements, Phil.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Feb 09, 2006 9:13 pm

.. careful Edwin .. we'll have someone claiming land rights over that corroboree ground as a sacred site and we'll lose the cyber space occupied by WW ..

WoZ of Aus 10/02/06
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Post by weiner50 » Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:45 pm

If you want to understand Pow wow are mobile and near the South Florida region, there is a pow wow this weekend (Friday thru Sunday (2/10-12/06) in Hollywood, Florida, on the Hard Rock Casino grounds, located on the Miccosukee reservation. Sadly, it will be very cold. On the question of usage, I would suggest the content is not objectionable; it would be a question of the spirit or attitude of the person using it.
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Post by Joseph » Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:22 am

Well, I am certainly greatful for your input although painful as it was read. WoZ you made very it clear how you felt. Erik I really did not get it. Harry you were much kinder than WoZ but you still though I was "beyond". Phil, I thought you were going to bail me out for a miunte there but I quickly found that not to be the case, at the very least I am glad to be an example. kw ends the most sensibly of all by saying "I would suggest the content is not objectionable; it would be a question of the spirit or attitude of the person using it".

Once again thanks, we now having powwows in work!
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:57 am

Karen said:

On the question of usage, I would suggest the content is not objectionable; it would be a question of the spirit or attitude of the person using it.
.. Karen this is exactly what it is all about .. even the nicest words can be used with venom .. even the most PC of people can be offensive .. and even the most careful person can find themselves in deep water because of the sensibilities of somebody else .. I just refuse to feel guilty for the masses when I am aware that the spirit in which I have approached somebody or some situation is open and conforming to the accepted mores of my culture .. and yes I do screw-up and yes I have been labeled this ...ist or that ...ist by someone who wants to feel offended no matter what ..

.. Karen, well said and I hope your powwow is everything you want it to be for you .. sorry I can't be there but it is a tad far and I just couldn't get a conneting flight in time .. but hey .. what a buzz it would be for me .. an Aussie .. to be able to take up your offer and meet you there for a personal tour .. *smile* .. maybe I could .. keep listening to the PA system for a call to pick-up your visitor from reception .. LOL .. I wish ..

WoZ of Aus 10/02/06
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Feb 10, 2006 6:02 am

.. Joey sorry mate if I came across too hard .. wasn't meant to be personal to you but an observation on PC in general .. BTW the number one best player in our local team, the Knights, who play in the National League is a Joey .. Joey Johns is regarded by most as the best player in the world in his sport .. *smile* ..

WoZ of Aus 10/02/06
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Post by aelnamer » Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:14 pm

Joey, IMO, being that it is used in the context you are referring to- it is okay. I asked my wife who is of Cree descent, and some others of First Nations descent, and they did not find it to be objectionable. Mind you it does not mean that others might not. I found this interesting definition and history of the word (Dictionary.com & http://www.etymonline.com):
"[Narragansett powwow, shaman.]
Word History: Because trances were so important to the Native American shaman as a means of getting in touch with spiritual forces beyond the ken of the normal person, the title powwaw, literally meaning “one who has visions,” was accorded him. An occurrence of this word in an early piece of propaganda designed to bring more settlers to New England represents fairly well the Puritan attitudes to the religion of the native inhabitants of the New World: “The office and dutie of the Powah is to be exercised principally in calling upon the Devil; and curing diseases of the sicke or wounded.” The word whose spelling was eventually settled in English as powwow was also used as the name for ceremonies and councils, probably because of the important role played by the shaman in both. Eventually the newcomers decided that they could have powwows too, the first reference to one of these being recorded in the Salem, Massachusetts, Gazette of 1812: “The Warriors of the Democratic Tribe will hold a powwow at Agawam on Tuesday next.” The verb powwow, “to confer,” was recorded even earlier, in 1780."

Ahmed
10th of February,2006
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Post by Shelley » Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:41 pm

aelnamer, that is so interesting! I had no idea "powwow" referred to the guy, not the gathering. Thanks.
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