bastard race

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Moon Palace

Senior Member
French
Hello everyone,
I came across this quotation from a British minister:

Sir Digby Jones, the Business minister, told the conference: "We are built on immigration. We are a bastard race."

I wonder whether the word 'bastard' is disparaging here, or slang? It surprised me to read this as being the words of a minister, but it might be my French vision that distorts the reality.

Thanks for giving me your feelings as native speakers. :)
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It means, generally, that we are an inhomogeneous race, with roots in all kinds of places brought about through invasions, occupations, immigrations, etc, etc.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    Thank you Panj :) , but what register is it? Is it something that is ordinary and plain, or does it have some connotations?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Is it disparaging?
    Not in this context.
    Here it is used with some pride, reflecting the rich heritage and mixture of cultures that are the result of such a background.
     

    In Search Of

    Senior Member
    It sounds a bit slangy to me, but I suppose he's trying to be emphatic, trying to keep it short and sweet. He's using it in the "original" sense, like panjandrum says, not in the "you bastard!" sense.
    Cheers
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    Thank you both :). I needed to check this because the only mentioning of the connotation I found was in the OED, and it said it was derogatory, conveying the idea of 'illegitimacy'. But on the part of a minister, this didn't quite fit. Let alone to defend immigration.:( Now it makes more sense and is indeed worthy (to me). ;)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Don't lose sight of the OED definition. That is still there in the background.

    Like many things, it is OK for a native Englishman to call the English a bastard race.
    That may not be acceptable from an outsider.

    You know the kind of thing - it may be OK for me to insult my sister, but if you insult her I reserve the right to thump you and throw you over the hedge.
     

    AlexDD

    Member
    Español -- Jalisco, México
    Another question about the usage of bastard.

    The Merriam Webster shows that bastard can be used in sense of 2. b. MAN, FELLOW, (as in lucky bastard, poor bastard, etc.) Does bastard still carry a disparaging connotation when used in this sense? Is it safe for me to say "Oh, you’re a real lucky bastard!” to my coworker without offending him?
     

    Dialogue Hog

    Member
    English
    I can only speak from an American perspective, but I think that it is impossible to separate the negative connotations from the word "bastard". I think that the speaker chose that word specifically because of those negative connotations, and was not merely trying to be descriptive. It would have been descriptive to say "we are a mixed race", but the speaker chose instead to say "we are a bastard race" because (in my opinion) he very much wanted to include the unspoken message "and we don't think we are racially superior to any other race".

    America is arguably even more mixed-race than the UK, but If the French Business Minister said that the Americans were a "bastard race", it would be considered quite insulting, not merely descriptive. I think that A phrase like "bastard race" must be used carefully, if ever, and only in reference to one's own race, unless one's purpose is to offend.

    I wouldn't call it disparaging or even self-deprecating. It's a point of pride, at the very least. I could say it could be considered humbling but not humiliating.
    I think it is misleading to tell non-Anglo-Saxons that "bastard race" is not disparaging. For complicated cultural and psychological reasons, many white Americans (and I assume Brits too) are eager to publicly disparage their own race, and so choose such words precisely because they are disparaging.

    It is not surprising that you would be confused by the contradiction of someone proudly disparaging their race.

    I'll briefly explain:
    Americans are, rightly, proud of our long tradition of welcoming immigrants to become Americans; we are proud to be a mixed race society. But that pride is matched by the shame of having engaged in race based slavery until 1863, and racial segregation for almost 100 years after that. This shame, which is rarely discussed and often subconscious, motivates many white Americans to seek opportunities to prove (to ourselves?) that we do not believe ourselves to be racially superior. The best way to prove that you are not superior, is to proclaim that you are inferior, and to "proudly" accept derogatory descriptions like "bastard race". (Google "white guilt" to learn more.)
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    Americans are, rightly, proud of our long tradition of welcoming immigrants to become Americans; we are proud to be a mixed race society. But that pride is matched by the shame of having engaged in race based slavery until 1863, and racial segregation for almost 100 years after that. This shame, which is rarely discussed and often subconscious, motivates many white Americans to seek opportunities to prove (to ourselves?) that we do not believe ourselves to be racially superior. The best way to prove that you are not superior, is to proclaim that you are inferior, and to "proudly" accept derogatory descriptions like "bastard race". (Google "white guilt" to learn more.)
    Intriguing pop psychology, with a few glaring problems: not all Americans are white, and therefore do not suffer from white guilt. Not all Americans' ancestors were here during the era of slavery, or had enough power to challenge racial segregation, and so do not suffer from white guilt.

    But no American, I think, given this country's racially-charged history would call Americans a "race". A "nation", a "people", but not a race.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I should point out: To call one's own "race" a "bastard race," depending on the context, would not necessarily have a negative connotation or a significantly disparaging one.

    It might not be seen this way if one calls another "race" a "bastard race."

    I've heard Americans describe themselves poetically as a "breed"; I don't think we often call ourselves a race.
     

    Dialogue Hog

    Member
    English
    The original question was:
    ...I wonder whether the word 'bastard' is disparaging here, or slang? It surprised me to read this as being the words of a minister...
    Thanks for giving me your feelings as native speakers.
    My answer requires sufficnent cultural context to fully understand. I think that, in short, the answer is:

    Yes, it is at least a little disparaging, but for complex cultural reasons, the speaker is being intentionally disparaging, and at the same time, and for the same reasons, is asserting that the term is not disparaging at all.

    Tricky, but important to know if one is truely going to understand what is being said, and why.

    ewhite:
    I clearly said "many white americans", not "all americans".
    I would never say that Americans are a race. I was using my knowledge of American society and language to examine the statement of the British official who said "we are a bastard race". It isn't literally true of British people either, but I had to start with his statement, even if it isn't literally true.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    In the original post it means "of mixed or ill-conceived origin". Curiously, several online dictionaries seem to lack this definition, even though it seems to me to be a reasonably common usage. I think it's absolutely correct in the context, although I would agree that one should be cautious about applying the term - if only to avoid possible (and possibly willful) misinterpretation with regards to illegitimacy, inferiority or offensiveness. Personally, I find the use of the ill-defined and emotionally-charged term "race" rather more problematic than the use of "bastard" but I suspect the phrase "bastard race" may have been used deliberately to effectively scupper the kind of arguments used by the more extreme end of the anti-immigration lobby in their own terminology.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    chose instead to say "we are a bastard race" because (in my opinion) he very much wanted to include the unspoken message "and we don't think we are racially superior to any other race".
    I can't say if the phrase was carefully chosen or not. I hope it was to counter the view held by some that somehow there is a pure blood line, some sort of racial purity, a " pure" "British" breed. But "carefully chosen" doesn't necessarily mean it was the best choice. He mustn't have had a team of competent speech writers

    I would much prefer 'mongrel breed' which takes out the problems of the word 'race'. Whether one is the biological offspring of the man who is married to one's mother makes little difference these days.

    Becoming a competent user of a foreign language does not mean becoming indistinguishable from the native speaker. That is an impossible aim. Successful use of another language involves knowing what you as a foreigner must not say, as much as knowing how to say it and understanding what is said.
    Register is very very important

    I'd advise English learners to put ' bastard 'on their taboo list.

    We have been a family of 'mutts' for a couple of generations, and have recently become colour mixed too,"racially mongrel" I guess. I don't know of any bastards in my family though, not in any sense of the word.

    :)
    Hermione
     

    WyomingSue

    Senior Member
    English--USA
    I agree with Hermione G.: "I'd advise English learners to put ' bastard 'on their taboo list." The odds are good that you would offend someone. Why offend people by accident if you don't have to?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I'm with Hermy and WyomingSue. There are certain terms that that you can use of your OWN group unless you want to upset a lot of people.

    I teach the history of English (ie the English language), and the English language has also often been called a bastard language. And it's fine if spoken by an English speaker.
     
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