Arguments over use of language continue. It would be much simpler to invent new words for these concepts. This Wikipedia article discusses the use of the adjective “Polish” in reference to the Nazi concentration camps in World War II.
Offense has been caused because Polish officials are (rightly, in my opinion) dismayed to be referred to in media as the architects and purveyors of the “Polish death camps” that were located within the borders of their country. However, they argue that these camps were conceived of in Nazi Germany, and run by the Nazis, while the Nazis occupied their country.
It’s a no-brainer: Poland itself wasn’t responsible for genocide. But it’s still less of a mouthful to say “Auschwitz” than it is to say the more politically and ideologically correct “Auschwitz Birkenau. German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945).”
Then there’s the trouble with the word “German” and the stigma attached to the country and its citizens because of the two World Wars. Not all Germans were Nazis. Not all Nazis were Germans. Hitler was Austrian. There are good and bad people everywhere – it makes no difference what country they are from.
(And what was with Hitler’s “Aryan, blonde hair, blue-eyed” obsession? That’s still something I don’t understand. Hitler was dark-haired ad dark-eyed. Wouldn’t that mean he’s effectively sending himself to the gas chambers because he doesn’t fit the arbitrary mold of idiotic physical perfection that his Party has cooked up? But sanity is not what was going on there. Maybe he’d taken too much meth to make any sense to himself. Too bad all those assassination attempts failed. But Valkyrie is still a good film.)
English is a particularly problematic language when it comes to adjectives and demonyms. There is often only one word to describe both – which makes them visually identical – but they mean quite different things.
An adjective is a word which describes, or qualifies, a noun or noun phrase.
A demonym is the name for the resident of a locality. A demonym is usually – though not always – derived from the name of the locality. Thus, the demonym for England is English; the demonym for Italy is Italian, but the demonym for Netherlands is Dutch. [source: Wikipedia: "demonym"]
Russian, on the other hand, has different words for these things. Let’s look at the adjective “Russian”.
(Now, I’m going to assume that some of my readers can’t read Russian, so bear with me, and I’ll talk you through it, OK? This is the language I studied for my undergraduate degree, so it’s the one I feel most qualified to use as a tool for demonstration. What you’ll be able to see is that the letters of the different words in Russian – which uses the Cyrillic alphabet – don’t look the same. It would be like me writing two English words: house and catastrophe, and even if you didn’t know the language, you could probably suss out that these words aren’t the same.)
Russian language = русский язык
Russian economics = российская экономика
Russian citizen = россиянин (Russian man); россиянка (Russian woman)
See how those words are all different?
One last thought. from the film The Last Emperor (1987):
Reginald Fleming ‘R.J.’ Johnston (played by Peter O’Toole): ”Words are important.”
Emperor Pu Yi at 15 (played by Tao Wu): “Why are words important?”
Reginald Fleming ‘R.J.’ Johnston: ”If you cannot say what you mean, your majesty, you will never mean what you say, and a gentleman should always mean what he says.”