Yesterday, my kids and I took a pack of a specific kind of cookie to their therapy clinic. On the way to our appointment today, the kids wanted to know if they could have any of those cookies.
I explained that if you give something as a present, you don’t ask for it back. I used the phrase ‘Indian Giver’ because it’s the only phrase I know for that kind of behavior, but is there a different phrase?
I’ve looked at the definition of ‘renege’ (including its Latin root ‘renegare’) and I just don’t think this is quite…right. ‘Renege’ seems to refer specifically to the going-back on one’s word, or breaking a promise; at any rate, it is specifically not post facto to an act of giving, unless I suppose one can take back a promise.
Whereas…what I’m needing is more like…revocation, or retraction. Repossession, maybe? Status change, from gift to non-gift; from giver to non-giver. Yet none of the re- words I’ve seen or heard or come up with yet, seems quite right.
I won’t argue there: as I was telling my kids yesterday when they watched ‘Barter’ on the ‘America Rock’ DVD…the natives got the raw end of that particular barter deal (beads and such). I didn’t even attempt to go into the broken treaties right then, they were busy watching the video. I can’t justify certain bits of history, and can only say ‘Y’know, people can really suck sometimes.’
But it doesn’t bring us much closer to a word to use instead of ‘denigrate one particular group of people or another’.
Let’s try ‘degifting’ in a few sentences to get a feel for it:
John gave Mary an excellent power drill for her birthday. When she never used it, he began using it, saying it was going to waste otherwise. She felt he had given it with the express purpose of degifting it later.
Mary gave her children her old computer, but degifted it a few months later when she needed it again.
John was a confirmed degifter, so much so that whenever he gave a present, the recipient never quite felt it was theirs, but rather that they were holding it for him, and he’d be along sooner or later to take it back.
I always thought the term “Indian giver” had to do with the custom of potlatch, which was explained to me as the custom of giving away excess possessions or food, with the expectation that if you ever needed them again, whoever had them would give them back to you (or would feed you.) A nice way to live, provided everyone has the same expectations.
In my understanding, it was not in any way connected with the concept of cheating or bilking.
I like degifting, though, as a word to use instead.
As a child, poor zelie was given a small TV for Christmas but was immediately degifted because her brother had received a computer with no monitor which he played all day and her parents liked to watch the TV at night…
Yup, that term works perfectly to sum up how the degifted feel.