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Desert Diary


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One of the most prominent cultural features of any people is their language. Interestingly enough, it's also one of the most plastic traits. The reaction of cultures and individuals to this plasticity, however, varies tremendously. The French, for example, are famous for their attempts to preserve what they perceive as the purity of their language. Other cultures, such as the English speaking nations, largely welcome additions from other languages and also regularly accept changes in long-accepted meanings. Even so, individuals within the English speaking community may react adversely to change.

The word "Anglo", traditionally referring to the English in most of North America, has been widely adopted in the Southwest to refer to any light-skinned, non-Hispanic person regardless of ethnicity—to the chagrin of some. Even those of Irish descent, long at odds with the English, become Anglos in our region. This is not so unusual—many of our Native Americans are known by names given by others rather than by those they call themselves. And, of course, the epitome of this is the name we still recognize them by—Indians!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.