Saturday, March 21, 2009



The Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) is back in the news. One of its former members, Kathleen Soliah, was released from prison in California and began serving parole in Saint Paul, Minnesota. On the lam for twenty years, Soliah spent much of that time in Saint Paul under the name Sarah Jane Olson.

Here's an explanation of the word Symbionese, from The Symbionese Federation and the Symbionese Liberation Army Declaration of Revolutionary War and the Symbionese Program:
The name Symbionese is taken from the word symbiosis and we define its meaning as a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all within the body.
Sounds benign, like a New Age version of the Salvation Army. But the SLA was not "in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all" who were outside the body, such as Marcus Foster and Myrna Opsahl, both murdered by the SLA.

The suffix -ese in Symbionese sounds odd to my ear. The Oxford Companion to the English Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), has this to say about -ese (p. 379):
[From Old French -eis (Modern ais, -ois) and cognate with Italian -ese, from Latin -ensis belonging to]. A suffix added to nouns and adjectives. Its primary use is the identification of nationalities, languages, and the like, as Chinese, Congolese, Japanese, Javanese, Viennese, Vietnamese, but a significant secondary use is the labelling of styles or registers of English. The primary use is neutral, but the secondary use is pejorative, associated with individuals whose style is distinctive and idiosyncratic (Carlylese, Johnsonese), groups whose stylistic tendencies are seen as undesirable (academese, bureaucratese), language varieties considered deficient or peculiar (Brooklynese, Pentagonese), and the media and technology (cabelese, computerese). Nonce and stunt creations are common, such as UNese, a diplomatic style said to be used in the United Nations.
Kevin Keqing Liu, "Hey, listen. I am Chinian. I am not Chinese," China Daily (January 19, 2006), considers the primary use of the suffix -ese not neutral, but insulting.

In Latin adjectives ending in -ensis, the ethnic or toponymic use seems to predominate. The list in Otto Gradenwitz, Laterculi vocum Latinarum: voces Latinas et a fronte et a tergo ordinandas (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1904), p. 464, unfortunately doesn't include proper adjectives. Here are some discussions:

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?