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Don't have to live like a refugee  wtch-@aol.com
 Sep 04, 2005 13:28 PDT 
In line with the wire story below, The Dispatch has decided not to use "refugee" when describing Katrina survivors trying to get away from areas of devastation. What have y'all chosen to do?
Bill Chronister
The Columbus Dispatch

Cox News Service
    ATLANTA -- The word ``refugee,'' often used to identify Cubans, Haitians or others seeking safe haven in the United States, this week became a prevalent label for thousands of people made homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
    But is it the correct term for Americans who are forced to relocate by a natural catastrophe?
    Webster's II New College Dictionary defines ``refugee'' as ``one who flees, usually to another country, for refuge, especially from invasion, oppression or persecution.'' But in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the first definition is ``one who flees to a place of safety.''
    Oxford's ``20th Century Words'' includes in its entry on ``refugee'' the definition ``a displaced person,'' tracing it to the French word refugie that was used at the end of the 17th century for the French Huguenots who came to England after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
    Over the next 250 years, the word grew to denote anyone seeking refuge, said Richard Lederer, author of ``Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language'' and other books.
    Since early in the storm coverage, some readers have written and called the AJC to complain about some of the terminology, particularly that word.
    ``Your use of the term 'refugee' is incorrect and is a direct insult to the people who have suffered through the worst disaster in this nation's history,'' said Frederick L. Daniels Jr., a senior vice president for Citizens Trust Bank.
    ``Is it the fact that most of those evacuated from New Orleans and the Gulf region are people of color who are poor, disfranchised and represent a Third World country quality of life that contributes to the flippant attitude regarding the use of 'refugee'?... A better word would be 'evacuee.' ``
    ``Words evolve,'' Lederer said. ``You can't just stick words with their original meanings. If you did, 'September' would still mean 'the seventh month.' 'Awful' used to mean 'awesome' and it doesn't anymore.
    ``What better word do we have to use than 'refugee'?'' he asked. ``I don't see it as derogatory at all.''
    The debate may have only begun. As this story evolves, so will the language.
    Don O'Briant writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: dobriant(at)ajc.com
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