13 December 2007

Oriental Manners



There was a time when the term "Oriental" was A-OK. That time has since passed. I think it's still OK to call a rug Oriental but you shouldn't be calling a Chinamin, an Oriental.

There has been a bit of controversy regarding the connotations and implications of the term in American English. So-called politically correct terms have taken the place of the word 'Orientalism'.

While a number of reference works used in the United States describe Oriental as pejorative, antiquated or offensive in some instances, the handy American Heritage Book of English Usage notes that it is worth remembering that Oriental is not an ethnic slur to be avoided in all situations.

It is most objectionable in contemporary contexts and when used as a noun, as in "I got robbed by a coupla Orientals" or "Yeah, he married one of them Orientals". In these cases Asian (or a more specific term such as Vietnamese, Korean, or Asian American, if appropriate) is the only acceptable term.

But in certain historical contexts, or when its exotic connotations are integral to the topic, Oriental remains a useful term.

Random House's Guide to Sensitive Language states "Other words such as Oriental and coloured are outdated or inaccurate." Yikes.

This Guide to Sensitive Language suggests the use of "Asian or more specific designation such as Pacific Islander, Chinese American, or Korean."

My girl Merriam Webster describes the term as "sometimes offensive," while Encarta states when the term is used as a noun it is considered " a highly offensive term for somebody from East Asia".

So back in the day, there was this giant catering hall on 18th Avenue and 86th Street called "Oriental Manor" and I believe their little tag line was "Caterers of Distinction".

Oriental Manor was the place to go for 'a bridal affair to remember'. It was where the trashy Italians threw their braggadocian weddins. It was also second choice if Micali Terrace was all booked up.

Well, the Oriental Manor building is still there but now it's an American Place, a disorderly bargain clothing depot where they sell slightly irregular stuff from Century 21 and they also have clothing for sale by-the-pound. Anytime an American Place opens up, there is Community Board outrage and unrest. I love it.

The best part is the inside of the store hasn't changed. They've still got the sweeping wrought iron lace staircases, gold gilded banisters and flying buttresses and the like, except now they aren't catering braggadocian bridal affairs to remember but clothing by-the-pound and Ralph Lauren coats missing buttons and sleeves.

Imagine if that was where you had your wedding! I mean, its gotta be worse than having the place razed to rubble.

"Oh, honey, look, that's where we got married! It's a discount clothing store now."

Then again, something tells me most marriages forged at the Oriental Manor probably came apart at the hinges years ago.

1 comment:

tracey said...

I got married at the slightly lesser known Angelo's Catering Hall just a few blocks away, and on a sidestreet. I'm talking "between 86th and Benson". I was also proposed to under the El,just outside the Bay Pkwy station. Possibly on the actual steps. I'm certain the amount of time one's marriage lasts is directly proportional to the joint's classiness. Mine lasted five months, but I'm also a crzldy.