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Why fight for the use of the word negro?


[17. November 2006] In recent weeks, Ny Tid has had the journalistic pleasure of setting the agenda in the general public. An e-mail we received from the Language Council has been dissected and debated in almost all Norwegian media, due to the equal sign that was put there between the terms "Norwegian" and "ethnic Norwegian". After two weeks of fog, director Sylfest Lomheim has publicly laid flat for the criticism. The apology was both welcome and necessary. Numerous posts have led to a broad and interesting debate about the use of the word Norwegian and what kind of concepts we have to characterize Norwegians with different backgrounds. This is an important debate in a changing Norway.

Sylfest Lomheim now insists that the Language Council's job is only to describe the language, not define it. But the power of the council is also normative. In practice, this is the body that decides what Norwegian spelling is and that defines words in and out of the language. According to its own guidelines, the council must, among other things, protect the cultural heritage of the Norwegian language. They do this, for example, by what they themselves call «Norwegianisation», Norwegianisation of English loanwords in the language. The Council's decision on this is the direct reason why we in Ny Tid have a section called «gaid», instead of a guide or guide.

As part of the press, Ny Tid also has a special responsibility for our vocabulary. Our language policy must take into account that we also help to shape the language of the readers. Therefore, it is an obvious duty to take into account how words are perceived by the recipient. The Language Council refuses to acknowledge this task. When Sylfest Lomheim insists on being descriptive and not normative, he underestimates both his own argumentation, function and the task assigned to the council. The Language Council's articles of association state, among other things, that they must both take and follow up language policy initiatives and take into account the linguistic interests of «Norwegians with a Sami or minority language background or affiliation». Sylfest Lomheim has finally realized that these are also Norwegians. Now he should ponder what the Language Council's task is, and consider his own motivation for continuing to step up in defense of the police's use of the word "negro", with persistent insistence that the word itself is not discriminatory. Of course, words are not essentially discriminatory in themselves. But we suggest that Lomheim, purely descriptively, take the time to ask some Norwegians with dark skin color about how they experience being called Negroes. Normatively, he can think about what these Norwegians' linguistic interests are.

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