Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What A Dvandva-full World

dvandva: a compound word neither element of which is subordinate to the other,
as "bittersweet", Anglo-Saxon
Are you a Jewish-American, or an American Jew?

I met a woman this weekend who introduced herself as a Persian Jewish American; she didn't say if she knew any Jewish Persian-Americans, or Persian-American Jews.

Does changing the word order change your identity? A little bit, I suppose, as far as it's a statement of priorities and loyalty. Am I first and formost a Jew, bound to all other Jews across the world, and America is the place I'm from? Or am I an American, and differentiated from my fellow Americans only by the matter of my religion?

I'm proposing this as a new dvandva; whichever semantic arrangement you prefer, I am applying this concept to demonstrate that it is not a matter of one over the other. I am both at the same time, and all the time. The two interact well and make each other stronger. The American ideals of freedom, equality, and liberty fit well with the principals of Jewish law and ethics.

This has been a major theme in my life, so I plan to return to this topic in future posts. For now, though, this concept of dualism and linguistic equality is a good place to start.

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