What’s the word?

From Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, which I also mentioned over here and which I’m still reading:

“Peoples of color” sounded awkward if translated literally, so I used the standard Chinese term for minorities: shaoshu minzu. Of course, that was just as odd in English: “small-number ethnic groups.” Perhaps somewhere in the world there was a language that handled this issue gracefully, but it wasn’t English or Chinese.

As far as I know, it isn’t Filipino either, which doesn’t seem to have a similar blanket term for minorities at all. (This observation is just off the top of my head, though, so please feel free to correct me.) I asked a friend who speaks Cebuano, and she also came up blank.

This also brought us to the interesting flavor of the words for “foreigner” or “immigrant”: dayuhan or dayo, which carry connotations of passage and transience that I think are worth probing. When we speak of foreigners, there’s the obvious dimension of “they’re not from here,” but the words we use to refer to them also bear some shades of, “they’re just passing through” or “they’re not going to stay.” I might just be spouting threadbare thoughts here, but I think that makes for some interesting linguistics-inspired takes on how Filipinos might interact with issues of im/migration that have become so prominent today.

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