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Actually, they call them (in Chinese, of course) "foreign devils." "Barbarians" is from the Greek and it means, "people who bleat like sheep," or in other words, can't speak Greek. Because most Chinese people do not have allot of hair on their arms, and many visitors to China do, the Chinese equate the extra hair as another sign of primitive people.

Every group such as the Chinese has a "out-group" name for people who don't share their culture, frequently a demeaning one. Jews call non-Jews "goyim"; Hawaiians call non-Hawaiians "haolis"; Mexicans call everybody else "gringoes" (curiously, that means "Greeks"; a metonym for "foreigners" established by the Romans).

Many of the names we casually use for American First Nations began as insults by other tribes. "Sioux" (for Lakota) is a French-mangled Algonkian word for "little snakes"; "Apache" is Zuni for "enemy." (They call themselves Dineh). "Eskimo" (for Inuit) is Cree for "eats raw flesh."

In short, language will always be something of a barrier to acceptance, inasmuch as the one we speak seems to us to be the only reasonable way to talk and those who can't do it are at least a little odd and deserve to be labelled for it.

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Q: Why did Chinese refer to outsiders as barbarians?
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