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Viridian
12-14-2014, 05:26 AM
So. I have a fantasy world in which there's a place known as the North. I decided early on I wanted this to be a biracial society composed of two distinct ethnic groups.

The people native to the area are analogous to vikings. Light-skinned, caucasian features, the like. The second ethnic group is composed of migrants from further south, traders and settlers who came in large boats to populate the area.

Is it weird if I refer to the white people as aboriginals? It's my understanding that the strict definition of the word "aboriginal" is "people native to an area," which certainly fits the bill. But at the same time, generally when I hear the word "aboriginal" it refers to POCs such as First Nations or Native Americans.

Not the most politically stirring question, I know.

Amadan
12-14-2014, 05:43 AM
Aboriginals is an accurate word in this context. But it does have those associations, so what will you do when someone says you shouldn't use it for white people?

Nualláin
12-14-2014, 06:39 AM
You're absolutely correct both about the strict definition, and about the connotations. It's perfectly appropriate for the situation, and will summon up a very specific frame of reference for some of your readers, some of whom won't necessarily understand the word's wider associations.

Because I'm a philology nerd: aboriginal has a history that long predates its present associations. Its formation is Latin ab origine, literally "from the beginning", and was used very early to describe the group of people who were native to an area... Or, well, not quite. The Romans called the primeval tribe who drove the Siculi out of Latium and founded the city of Rome aborigines in Latin; if you were to clumsily literalize its meaning into English, it means "the from-the-beginning people". Of course, those "first people" actually drove out the people who were already there in order to become "first", so make of that what you will.

Personally, I'd be totally comfortable with reading it in your context. You may want to have a good concise explanation lying around for what you meant by it, but I wouldn't worry.

If you did worry, one way of avoiding undesirable associations is to switch from Latin words to Greek ones that mean exactly the same thing. The Greek equivalent of aborigines is (I don't know if this is going to display properly on AW...) οἱ αὐτόχθονες, "the autochthons", the literal meaning of which is "those who sprang from the earth", and therefore the first people to inhabit an area. Autochthonous is also a super-cool sounding English word, which is a bonus.

Polenth
12-14-2014, 06:53 AM
I'd avoid aboriginal, indigenous or native, unless the group is based on a group called that in our world. For example, indigenous is used for some European ethnic groups such as Basques and Sami. But it's not commonly used for Vikings and their descendants. I think you already know the reason for avoiding it, as it's in your question. These are words that are used to describe particular marginalised ethnic groups, many of them non-white. You can't avoid those connotations by quoting the dictionary. It'd be easy enough to come up with a nickname for the group that would work just as well.

Do be cautious if this is a discrimiflip story though (brown colonisers invade the home of the white people, steal their land, ban their languages, and so forth). It's hard to do that sort of story well. Most end up coming across as emphasising stereotypes from our world (brown people are evil and violent; white people are noble, good and in danger from scary brown people).

veinglory
12-14-2014, 07:03 AM
Are all your other terms from the same language roots? If so it might well fit in, if not it strikes me as a strangely obscure term to choose versus native, indigenous etc.

Viridian
12-14-2014, 08:05 AM
Aboriginals is an accurate word in this context. But it does have those associations, so what will you do when someone says you shouldn't use it for white people?
I'd ask them for an explanation. And then I'd probably stop using it, to be honest.

@Nualláin: thanks for the detailed explanation! I'll consider using "autotchon."

Do be cautious if this is a discrimiflip story though (brown colonisers invade the home of the white people, steal their land, ban their languages, and so forth). It's hard to do that sort of story well. Most end up coming across as emphasising stereotypes from our world (brown people are evil and violent; white people are noble, good and in danger from scary brown people).
No, it's not a discrimiflip thing. No worries.

There's not really a reason that the indigenous people are white and the migrants are non-white. They just are. It's not a plot point. It's not social commentary. It's mentioned briefly during character descriptions. The two groups get along and have mostly melded together, except for variances in appearance; they speak the same language and have the same culture.

"Distinct ethnic groups" was an overstatement on my part. It would be more accurate to say that most of the characters are various degrees of biracial.

Are all your other terms from the same language roots? If so it might well fit in, if not it strikes me as a strangely obscure term to choose versus native, indigenous etc.
I honestly didn't realize "aboriginal" was obscure. I think "native" is more common, though, you're right. My main concern is the connotations of these words, though. I'll check up on language roots.

kuwisdelu
12-14-2014, 10:00 AM
It's linguistically correct, so it would make sense to me, as long as you're not doing any of the blatantly stupid things that Polenth mentioned.

Be very careful of unfortunate implications.

I'd also expect the group to be marginalized compared to the migrant group. If they're the dominant ethnic group, it would seem unnecessary to me.

Hapax Legomenon
12-15-2014, 10:32 PM
Are all your other terms from the same language roots? If so it might well fit in, if not it strikes me as a strangely obscure term to choose versus native, indigenous etc.

That was my thinking too. To my knowledge most native groups aren't referred to as "aboriginal" outside of an academic context unless you're talking about Australia.

Rufus Coppertop
12-16-2014, 01:26 AM
You could autochthonous. Classical Greek for earth-born with the implication of a people springing from the native soil.

Treehouseman
12-16-2014, 12:19 PM
Seconding indigenous or maybe even "local" or "traditional" people?

In Australia "Aboriginal" has a very strictly defined legal definition so Aboriginal Vikings (COOOLL!) are perhaps a fantasy never to be realised. (Although my Aboriginal friends would love it, ha!)

Anarchic Q
12-16-2014, 09:57 PM
I like indigenous. it makes me think of phrases like "indigenous wildlife" or "indigenous flora" so I personally think it comes with less baggage than Aboriginal.