I ran across a term this morning on Fox News that I had seen mentioned a few times previously, but hadn’t given much thought to. When I think of the term “Anchor Baby,” at first blush it doesn’t bring to mind the issue of illegal immigration for me. I guess that because of the way my skewed thought processes work, I instead think of the following scenario:
Two toddlers are sitting in a playpen. One is the son of an Army soldier, the other the son of a sailor. The Army toddler points to his bib, which has the latest Army slogan printed on it and after a bit of “toddler-ese,” says “Army Strong!” The Navy toddler gives the Army baby a slightly confused look, then lifts the sleeve of his shirt to reveal an anchor tattoo, and says “When Army strong just isn’t enough, BEEYOTCH!”
Okay, back to the more serious aspects of the article, I guess. The term “Anchor Baby” in fact, refers to children born to immigrant parents. Until quite recently, the American Heritage Dictionary defined the term as:
“n. A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.”
Mary Giovagnoli, political blogger and director of the Immigration Policy Center in Washington D.C., was evidently incensed that the term wasn’t classified by the dictionary as being offensive. Upon hearing an on-air (radio) reading of the definition by the American Heritage Dictionary’s executive editor, she lambasted the term and its definition, calling it “poisonous and derogatory.” In return, the “powers-that-be” at American Heritage Dictionary have now revised their definition. It now reads as:
“n. Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.”
Apparently, Ms. Giovagnoli is pleased with the new definition, calling it “well crafted,” while conservative policy wonks are decrying the altered definition as evidence of a liberal agenda influence at American Heritage Dictionary.
(SOAPBOX=ON) Here are the issues that I have with this whole thing. First, since when do people like Mary Giovagnoli get to rewrite the dictionary? When last I checked, she did not work for American Heritage. She works for the Immigration Policy Center, which is a D.C. think tank dealing in immigration policy. Second, who is the term “offensive” to? To Mary Giovagnoli and others like her, who support an “open-border” policy? To those migrant families who have engaged in this approach to obtaining citizenship? No really, I would love to know. If you’re going to call something “offensive,” then you’d better be damned well prepared to qualify that assessment, and not just apply the term arbitrarily.
Here’s another good question, one that may play into the whole “is it offensive, is it not offensive?” conundrum; is this a situation unique to the United States? Do other countries have this type of situation occurring? Do they have a term that they use to describe it, and do others find that term offensive?
Until the folks at American Heritage and the IPC can answer that, I think I’ll just stick to my own visual definition of the term. It’s way more amusing and offends few, if any.
“Revised Definition of ‘Anchor Baby’ Part of Leftist Agenda, Critics Say,” Fox News, retrieved on 09 December, 2011.