Anyone care to debate the word "Occidental," too?

Of all possible topics of conversation to be had in the Hamptons, I engaged in a debate with someone about the word "Oriental."

Here is how a perfectly good dinner conversation went bad:

Hamptons Guest: "Oriental is a bad word! Not OK! I got the list!!! That is a term perpetuated by colonialism!!!! Oriental is a rug!"
Me: [sigh] "What then, is the region called from which such a rug is made?"

From the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary (August 1, 2004):
Main Entry: ori·en·tal Pronunciation: "or-E-'en-t&lFunction: adjective1 often capitalized : of, relating to, or situated in Asia2 a : of superior grade, luster, or value b : being corundum or sapphire but simulating another gem in color3 often capitalized, sometimes offensive : ASIAN4 capitalized : of, relating to, or constituting the biogeographic region that includes Asia south and southeast of the Himalayas and the Malay Archipelago west of Wallace's line- ori·en·tal·ly /-t&l-E/ adverb

And this from the American Book of English Usage, 1996 edition:

Asian is now strongly preferred in place of Oriental for persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people. Both terms are rooted in geography rather than ethnicity, but where Asian is neutral, Oriental sounds outdated and to many people even offensive.
The usual objection to Oriental—meaning “of or situated in the East”—is that it identifies Asian countries and peoples in terms of their location relative to Europe. However, this objection is not usually made of other terms, such as Near Eastern and Middle Eastern, stemming from the same accident of geography that led the earliest European travelers eastward rather than westward into Asia. The real problem with Oriental is more likely that it comes freighted with connotations from an earlier era, when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires, fabulous cities, and mysterious customs. Such common expressions as “Oriental splendor” and “the inscrutable Orient” testify to the rich—and now generally offensive—associations that have attached to this term in previous centuries.
It is worth remembering, though, 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 "the appointment of an Oriental to head the commission." 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.

The important thing here is, as long as we use terms such as Near-, Middle-, or Far East, our language to describe certain parts of the Asian world will be faulty and influenced by a European worldview.

I understand why a person from the "Far East" would hate to hear "the appointment of an Oriental to head the commission." But for some situations, Oriental is a perfectly acceptable term. From my own experience, in my travels to the "Near and Middle East" - the term Oriental was evident in language, and for the most part, did not seem offensive or wrought with negative connotation. Oriental rug is O.K. Orient Express (that train that goes to Turkey) is O.K. Oriental dance is even O.K. Oriental Jews (Jews of the Near-and Middle-East) is also O.K.

"Oriental" to describe your Korean friend is not O.K. Neither is the word "chinky."

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