"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Indian Giver

This phrase - which is sometimes considered offensive to Native Americans - means to give something in the expectation of a getting something in return or to give something that is more of benefit to oneself than to the recipient.

"He gave his wife a phone for her birthday but she never uses one. He knew she'd end up letting him use it all the time. Indian giver!"

The term "Indian gift" was first noted in 1765 by Thomas Hutchinson, and "Indian giver" was first cited in John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms (1860) as "Indian giver - When an Indian gives any thing, he expects to receive an equivalent, or to have his gift returned." Although this has been considered offensive by Native Americans it is really more a reflection on the dishonesty of the European settlers. When the natives offerred goods in trade the settlers sometimes took them without giving something back and then blamed the natives for wanting something. Some Native American cultures also had a gift-giving system rather tlike the Vikings whereby the giver of gift made it as magnanimous as possible because the culture required an even better gift be made in return. This wasn't a demonstration of greed but of a competitive system which was designed to show which of them was the richer.

Either way it may be safer not to use it but it is as well to know what it means!

No comments:

Post a Comment