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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Meaning of Yuon (2)

Meaning of Yuon (2)

I refer to Michael Vickery's letter (PPPost July 4, 2003). Michael Vickery's rant

against those who defend traditional words in the Khmer language-"those politicians

and intellectuals who insist on using [yuon] must be denounced"-has typical

communist overtones. What should the Khmer response be to a foreign collaborator

in the campaign to remove what has been an innocuous traditional word from the Khmer

language?

There is no comparison between yuon and the word "nigger" as Vickery suggests.

"Nigger" was a term applied to slaves or former slaves and was a racial

epithet from its inception. For instance, signs saying "No Niggers" in

public places pervaded post-Civil War Southern America even until the 1960s. As I

explained, yuon was not pejorative from its inception and the controversy is recent,

politicized.

Because of the continued colonization of Kampuchea Krom and border 'disputes', resentment

against the eastern neighbors exists and it does not matter whether they are yuon

or Vietnamese.

In attempts to demonize KR, Vietnamese propagandists argue that yuon, and also Annam

(Annamites in French), were "pejorative" (Kampuchea Dossier). That Annam

is pejorative is beyond belief. The KR later followed suit defining, wrongly, yuon

in a footnote as "savages": (Black Paper 1978). Well, when it comes to

war, anything is possible.

Vickery's accusation that Khmers are "chauvinist" is baseless. In my experience,

Khmer do not regard themselves as superior to yuons or Chinese or Thai. It is the

other way around, perhaps.

Vickery's assertion that "we can see in a few Sanskrit inscriptions from Angkor

and Champa that the name yavana was used for the territory of ... northernmost Vietnam"

is inaccurate.

Yavana, in my view, was not used as a toponym. The Khmer used the Sanskrit term Vananestra:

(k534 inscription) for remote localities. The words Yavanandraviran that appear on

Angkor Thom and Gopura inscriptions are not toponyms. So do not try to connect it

to Vietnam. And yajvana in Wat Kirivong inscription means "sacrificer".

Finally, despite a "careful look", the definition of yavana in Williams'

Sanskrit-English Dictionary does not specify what the word means or is for "derogative

use".

We will continue to eat our Samlor machu yuon and colloquially use yuon and we do

not mean to be derogative.

- Bora Touch - Sydney

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