Is it Fair? Whites are 'Expats'. Others are 'Immigrants'.

Language conveys a lot about who we are and how we perceive the world. In terms of human migration, we give out the label of expat or immigrant to foreign migrants, and each word has its own connotation.

Language conveys a lot about who we are and how we perceive the world. For instance, what comes to mind when you hear the word “ex-pat” (short for “ex-patriot")? Now, what do you think when someone says “immigrant”?


Nic Subtirelu called attention to a recent post written by Mawuna Remarque Koutonin from The Guardian, in a recent blog post on Linguistic Pulse. He pointed out how we appear to reserve the title of expat “exclusively for western white people going to work abroad.” While “immigrant” is seemingly used for everyone else — Subtirelu says, “those considered to be part of ‘inferior races.’”

Subtirelu decided to call Koutonin's assertion into question. Does the web divide expats and immigrants? Using the Corpus of Global Web-Based English (GloWbE), he looked at the kinds of words that tend to appear beside “expat” and “immigrant” (and the pluralized versions of those words). He found:

“In terms of race, the graphic reveals clear tendencies toward immigrant being applied more frequently toward people of color, including, tellingly, the word non-white. Of course, reducing the issue purely to race would be a mistake.”

Rather, there's a relationship to socio-economic status and country of origin with these words and the expectations they carry with them. For instance, the word immigrant tends to imply a low-skilled worker who is expected to assimilate during their stay in the host country. Expats, on the other hand, tend to be thought of as financially stable, skilled workers who are expected to maintain ties with their native country. There's an air of elitism to the word expat, whereas with immigrants, we set such high expectations for people we may consider lowly.

“If it is acceptable for those we label expats to maintain their difference from their host countries, then it seems hypocritical to suggest that those we label immigrants should cast off their languages, cultures, and connections to their countries of origin.”

What do you think of Subtirelu's assessment?

Read more about his methods at Linguistic Pulse.

Photo Credit: Antonio Gravante / Shutterstock

A new study says alcohol changes how the brain creates memories

A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
  • This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
  • The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Heatwaves significantly impact male fertility, says huge study

As the world gets hotter, men may have fewer and fewer viable sperm

Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • New research on beetles shows that successive exposure to heatwaves reduces male fertility, sometimes to the point of sterility.
  • The research has implications both for how the insect population will sustain itself as well as how human fertility may work on an increasingly hotter Earth.
  • With this and other evidence, it is becoming clear that more common and more extreme heatwaves may be the most dangerous aspect of climate change.
Keep reading Show less