Oxford Etymologist on the Word “Squaw”—Indigenous Etymologist Needed!
In short, Liberman concludes that the etymology of “squaw” is that the word simply means “woman,” and so therefore cannot possibly be an epithet. He mocks advocates for changing place names to eliminate the use of the word.
Second, Liberman’s arrogant conclusion that “The moral of this episode is that etymology is a science and in serious situations should be left to specialists” deserves a response. Liberman seems angry that there are modern movements afoot to chance place names, blaming it all on Suzan Shown Harjo’s 1992 appearance on Oprah for some maddening reason, as if no one in Indian Country had any idea that “squaw” was an epithet before 1992.
For more on the subject, see Squelching the S-Word.
Below: One of several Indian Squaw Outfits. I.e., the "squaw" as slut or whore.