Please Say 'Person of Color' Here, Not 'Blue Person'

Previous terms in Ireland to describe people who aren't white were confusing, offensive
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2021 12:44 PM CDT

Up until now, Ireland has struggled with how to describe people who aren't white. Now, the panel that votes on adding new words and terms to the nation's official lexicon have come up with a descriptor: duine de dhath, or "person of color." That may seem like an obvious addition to those of us across the pond, but the Guardian notes it's been oddly difficult for the country to deal with this language issue: Past descriptors have included duine daite (which translates to the outdated "colored person," a throwback to apartheid times in South Africa); the puzzling duine gorm ("blue person"); and fear dubh for "black man," which, when capitalized, also means "devil" or "boogeyman," per the Sunday Times. "We were happy to use [duine de dhath]," Donncha O Croinin, head terminologist for the Foras na Gaeilge committee that opted to include the new term in Ireland's National Terminology Database, tells the Guardian. "It's a case of concepts emerging and changing."

He notes the adoption of the term was also spurred by the fact that the Irish population now includes burgeoning Latino, Asian, and African communities. Poet, broadcaster, and "language activist" Ola Majekodunmi, who sits on the Foras na Gaeilge board, is credited with suggesting the term. "I remember when I was in school wondering: Who are these people? I'm not blue," says Majekodunmi, who had Nigerian immigrant parents and learned the Irish language growing up. The panel's debate initially got stuck on the preposition, going back and forth among the Irish terms for "person with color," "person under color," and "person of color" before finally deciding on the latter. "It's not taking anything away from the language—it's evolving," Majekodunmi tells the Times. (More Ireland stories.)

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