The definition game


Settler: “A person who settles in an area, typically one with no or few previous inhabitants.” (from my Apple dictionary and from google def, not sure what the source is?)
Colonialism: (1) “The practice or manner of things colonial” and often serves as a synonym for “provincial;” (2) “The colonial system or principle. Now freq. used in the derogatory sense of an alleged policy of exploitation of backward or weak peoples by a large power.” (from the Oxford Dictionary of English)

No or few previous inhabitants? Wow, that’s a convenient myth that erases all the people who happened to occupy the land you were on before (like all First Nations in America).
And gotta love the “alleged” and “backward or weak people” in definition (2) of colonialism.

I think my faith in dictionaries has just about hit rock bottom…


  1. You might say they’re settling the semantic landscape. Resist linguistic colonialism with dialectic insurgency!

    But in seriousness, that’s really disturbing. I think I take for granted that people understand what colonialism is, but that can’t always be the case. Just today, I was reflecting on the opening line of Canada’s national anthem: “Oh Canada / Our home and native land…” I’m sure our First Nations cringe every time they hear that…

    Nationalism is always pitiful, but dictionaries, at least, require honesty. “Alleged?” Yeesh…

  2. I’ve looked it up in French dictionaries as well, and the definition isn’t much better, tbh… (and ouch. That Canadian hymn is wince-worthy)
    It looks like nationalism clings to the language far longer than it should have a decent right to…

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