More than one right term

I AGREE with Dzulkifli Abdul Razak in "Malaysian Indian Blueprint?" (My View, May 11) that it is important we get our terms right, but disagree that the term "Malaysian Indian" is incorrect and "Indian Malaysian" is correct.

The foundation of his argument is American usage of similar terms. That is very weak and on slippery ground, considering that English is not their language.

Honestly. Why else would they mis-name football, that beautiful game, "soccer"?

Who else but semi-literate hicks would refer to Iran as "I-ran", and Iraq as "I-rack"?

Americans reckon they have a right to wallow in parochial, and therefore racist ignorance born out of fantasies of "exceptionalism" because, well, they can. We should let them be and avoid imitating them or we would look like clowns.

Remember, it is exceptional American logic that the offspring of a black Kenyan father and a white Irish mother be labelled as black, and not brown or grey or something else.

No doubt billions of people have unquestioningly accepted all these nonsense, but that does not make them correct, logically or linguistically.

Coming back to the term in question, even from the perspective of correct English, "Malaysian Indian" seems appropriate for Malaysians of Indian descent because citizenship is stated first and thereby given priority over ethnicity or whatever else.

Also, I believe the term was coined by civil servants of the '60s and '70s who had excellent command of English, not to mention expertise in political and social sciences.

Why then the "Indian American" confusion? Simple: "European Americans" had already stuck the "American Indian" label on a group of tribes that called themselves anything but Indian. So, when confronted with a growing community of immigrants from India, they did a clumsy mental twist and came up with the only solution that they could think of.

George Thomas
Kuala Lumpur