Sunday, August 16, 2009


It is Immigrant Week that you asked for, and it is Immigrant Week you shall have. I had actually planned on this week being "Chain Gang" week, but several people requested a week on pictures of Immigrants, so that is what we will do. This picture shows a boat of Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. It was taken in 1907. I really love the look of exuberance on the little girl's face. You can only imagine how happy they were to arrive in America, the land of opportunity.

OK, this is what I find very confusing . . . the difference between Immigrants and Emigrants. English teachers get really fired up about this one, and I have trouble keeping the two straight. For example, lets say these people are arriving from Ireland. If their departure from Ireland was reported in an Irish newspaper, the headline would read, "Emigrants depart for America". When they arrived, a New York newspaper would report, "Immigrants arrive in America". Same people, but in one case they are Immigrants, and in the other case they are Emigrants. So, you might ask, at what point in the trip did they transform from Emigrants to Immigrants. The answer is that it is not that simple . . . If Ireland reported their arrival in the US, they would report, "Emigrants arrive in America". You see to Ireland they are still Emigrants. Now, things can get even more confusing. Lets say the woman in the picture is from Ireland. When she was in Ireland, she would refer to the other people on the boat as "Emigrants". But, the day after she landed, another boat from Ireland lands. Should the woman who is from Ireland, and only one day in the US, refer to the new arrivals as Emigrants or Immigrants? You see, I think that you can create scenarios where it is almost impossible to figure out whether the word Emigrant or Immigrant should be used. I propose that in order to make things simpler, we need a new word, Imigrant (with one m), and we let this become the word to be used in all cases. I think things would be much simpler with this simple adjustment.


  1. Emigrant- to leave ones country to settle in another.
    Immigrant- to come into another country.

  2. Anon,
    I think you are confusing Emigrant and Emigrate. An Emigrant is a person, not a verb.

  3. PJM, good morning.
    It seems that the usage of the word is determined not by about whom it is being used, but by where it is being used.
    If there were only one word to rule them all, we couldn't tell whether they were coming or going.

  4. Immigration - The one-way inward movement of individuals or their disseminules into a population or population area.
    Emigration is the act of leaving one's native country or region to settle in another. It is the same as immigration but from the perspective of the country of origin.

  5. But once we introduce the word "disseminules" the whole discussion just gets more confused.

    I maintain my position that we should adopt one word.

  6. Hmmmm. Should we then make a single word for coming and going?

  7. I (Interior) - coming in.
    E (Exterior) - going out.

  8. PJM, The confusion lies in yourself not the language. I think you just need to study your prefixes more. The precision of the English language is a wonder to behold.
    According to my dictionary the prefix e- means "out, forth, away"
    the prefixes in, il, im, ir means "within, into, toward".
    Once you study the prefixes some more, it will eliminate doubt, expel confusion; your mind will be infused, imbued with knowledge.

  9. These new arrivals to America sure look much more well-to-do than the people huddled in blankets & scarves that are pictured on the Ellis Island website. I suppose there were all income levels. Yes, the little girl is delightful.

  10. Those particular immigrants were well off. The classic view of immigrants is people in steerage with meager personal posessions. (That would be my father's parents and his uncles.) But there are all types.
    Incidentally, I like that Ellis Island link someone provided last week. Fortunately, I already have the entrance papers for my father's parents because otherwise I might not finding them using that website. They were from Lithuania. I knew their Lithuanian names, and also the Polish spelling which they always used after settling in this country. But because Lithuania was under the Czar, they came to America on Russian passports with Russian version of their names. (Life under the Czar was the same as life under the Soviets - strict conformity - only Russian nationalism allowed.)
    I never knew about the russian version of the Lithuanian name until I saw the immigration documents.
    To add some confusion, in the USA they used the polish spelling of the name, and the children were giving the polish name. But in the church records of their wedding and baptisms of children, my grandparents always used their real Lithuanian names. My grandparents came to America around 1905 and died in the 20's.

  11. See it as others see it.

    The people who see you leave see
    an emigrant. The people who see
    you arrive see an immigrant.

  12. Not only do they look British (Irish); but note the 4 leaf clover on the woman's collar.

  13. How do we know the woman and child in that photo are immigrants? Or that they are arriving vs departing? (Sometimes it's hard to tell.) Just wondering about the origin of the photo!

  14. Here's another that is always used interchangeably but I don't believe should be: insure / ensure.

    I have records of my father in law coming through Ellis Island twice. Once on his original entry to America, and once after a family visit back to England.

  15. PJM:

    Thank you for agreeing to my suggestion.

    This photo is wonderful. One of the things we learned at Ellis is that the wealther immigrants (first and second-class passengers) were processed on the boat and went right in, and only the poorer, steerage (third class passengers) were subject to the physical exams and rejection on Ellis Island.

  16. i see your point. however, it depends on where you are. say you are in Boston. Interstate 95 to NYC is 95South. say you are in NYC. the same stretch of highway is then 95North.

  17. i see your point. however, it depeends on where you are. say you are in Boston. Interstate 95 to NYC is 95South. say you are in NYC. the same stretch of highway is then 95North.

  18. +JMJ+

    Dear PJM,
    I have seen the little girl in this photo before, but can't remember where or who she is. Do you have a name for her??
    Senility means always meeting new people,


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