On the Reappropriation of Words
I noticed that Withiel took issue with kedazzle’s use of the word ‘chav’ in her article on Rocky Horror [perhaps edited out now]. The word’s etymology is the Romany for ‘person’, more specifically ‘child’. Obviously in using the word as a derogatory term for ‘poor person’ or as an acronym for ‘council housed and violent’, it is being used in a similar way to the word ‘gippo’ or ‘gypsy’ to define the poor. I shall leave it to Mr Black to elaborate on this.
My immediate concern is instead with the reappropriation of symbols. Perhaps the most potent symbol of evil in the last century was the Nazi Swastika. Its design, however, was taken from a symbol which Hitler saw in a Catholic church as a youth, and before that it was a Buddhist symbol of peace. It is unsurprising that the symbol is representative of the Nazis in today’s world rather than Buddhists or Catholics, and that it will probably never be used again for any other purpose. Does the symbol no longer belong to the Catholics or the Buddhists? Unfortunately, the extent of the atrocities of the Second World War saw to it that the symbol would remain with the Nazis. I recently saw that the gay community had done the same thing with a symbol which originated with the Nazis. The pink triangle is now a symbol of gay culture, but its origins are far darker. It was originally a label for people sent to concentration camps who practiced homosexuality worn in the same way as the Jewish Star of David. It is, of course, all very well for the Jewish community to ‘reclaim’ their emblem as it existed for centuries before the war, but it strikes me as slightly disrespectful to continue and even embrace a symbol which was specifically intended to mark men out for death. The motives of those who first reappropriated the symbol were undoubtedly good. They probably wanted to try to reverse the meaning of the original symbol, but I find it hard to believe that every person who celebrates and embraces the symbol is aware of its shadowy past. I take issue with the idea that the symbol is being used unwittingly, not giving due accord and respect to those whose suffering is deeply connected with it, and even the fact that a symbol originated by the Nazis is dignified with continuation.
I welcome any comments/additions to the argument.