Indian Giver?

Posted in Language, Quickies on  | 2 minutes | 4 Comments →

Hello all, sorry I’ve been out all week. Sometimes I’m in a rut where thoughts just keep coming and I actually want to write a daily post. Other times, burnout ensues, the muse rests, or life in the real world calls, and I don’t post for a week or more (semi-regular TWIM readers are probably familiar with my sporadic blogging style, but I figured I’d explain myself for new readers). I realize “blogging experts” suggest daily posts to maximize traffic, but that strategy seems geared to bloggers who value traffic over genuine inspiration–and I’m not one of them. Why force creativity? If I don’t have anything to say, I’m not going to waste our time. Nonetheless, I assure you I’ll be catching up on the many thought-provoking comments left as of late, and I want to thank everybody for their participation. Today, I just wanted to post a quick something related to language.

Have you ever heard the term Indian giver? Online etymologies say the phrase refers to somebody who gives a gift with intent to take it back. Though I’d heard this phrase my entire life, only lately did I begin to question it. The phrase obviously implies dishonesty or deceit on behalf of the giver–in this case, the Native American–and, as someone with Blackfoot blood, I wondered if this had any basis in reality. As with most claims, there is debate, but as far as dishonesty and deceit go, what of the alleged small-pox-laden blankets “gifted” to Native Americans? Sure, scholars, historians and laymen debate whether this biological warfare ever *actually* occurred, but if it did, how much more deceitful could one possibly get? I wonder if Native Americans have any trite phrases to describe someone who would “gift” such a thing?

What about you? Had you ever heard anybody use the phrase? Did you give it any thought? If so, did you chalk it up to racism, or just plain thoughtlessness?


  1. I agree completely on the blogging style. I just don’t have the time nor the motivation to blog daily. I want the posts I do put up to be from my current inspiration. Frankly, I just don’t have anything to say sometimes, lol.

  2. I used to ry to post at least twice per week. That turned out to be to much when I went back to school to get an MBA. I now post about once every two weeks, but it seems that my blog traffic has gone up. Maybe the experts are wrong.

    “Indian giver” does seem to be both a racist and an inaccurate term.


  3. Ronin



    Though I’d heard this phrase my entire life, only lately did I begin to question it.

    Me too! My wife brought it to my attention. She said, “Have you considered where the phrase comes from?” I said, “No.” But, I started thinking about the phrase since then. In some cases I think it is thoughtlessness. [i.e.] Let us suppose I write the following on your blog: “I like what you said!” However, as it turns out you didn’t say it you wrote it. I just willy nilly replied without giving much thought and wrote as above. I think sometimes we don’t really think about things before we say or write them. Who knows, maybe I am doing such a thing right now…Heh!

  4. paikea


    I can’t possibly blog every day. I just can’t bring myself to babble without cause.

    Of course, I am also a writer – the same applies to that for me. Which is probably why I’m not making that much headway on my book. Flashes of inspiration every few weeks don’t a book finish!

    Funny you mention that about the phrase”Indian giver”. Last week, it popped into my head for some reason I am failing to recall just now. It’s not a phrase that ever popped out of my mouth, but I definitely heard it my whole life (well, until I moved to NZ, where I’m not likely ever to year it).

    I think I did try to look it up years ago, in a fit of curiosity. I think I read something about the “white man” attributing dishonest or false to the Native Americans due to them being “red” and heathens and whatnot, so basically “Indian” was used as a modifier in a negative tone – like Indian Summer (which is a term I actually have used). No idea whether this is an accurate explanation, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

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