spelunking derogatory term?

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spelunking derogatory term?

Postby irhxcbcziuzxs » Aug 1, 2008 2:43 pm

from urban dictionary

4. spelunking


If you ask people who actually go caving, spelunking is the derogatory term for stupid or unprepared cave trips. Origin: "spelunk" is the sound a clumsy caver makes when he slips and falls in a cave and lands in water.
If you don't take a helmet, more than one source of light, and a few friends into the cave with you, then you're not caving. You're spelunking.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby graveleye » Aug 1, 2008 3:42 pm

"Cavers rescue spelunkers"

I tend to let it slide with most people... i just smile and say "yea, I am a caver" if they refer to it as spelunking. Most of the time when I try to explain, people give me the brook-trout look.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby NZcaver » Aug 1, 2008 3:56 pm

graveleye wrote:"Cavers rescue spelunkers"

And (in fairness) cavers also rescue other cavers, and some spelunkers even survive on their own and become respectable cavers. Sorry, but for some reason that old cliche just doesn't quite have the same appeal for me as it does for others.

I tend to let it slide with most people... i just smile and say "yea, I am a caver" if they refer to it as spelunking. Most of the time when I try to explain, people give me the brook-trout look.

You too?

Do you notice non-cavers like to enthusiastically drop the "s-word" like it's the answer to an exam question? You say you're a caver, and they immediately dazzle you by sharing their knowledge of a big word which they think means the same thing. :roll:
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Aug 1, 2008 5:11 pm

It depends upon the context used I think to determine if it's derogatory or not.
There are three types of people I think that explore caves.
1. Cavers and that in of itself has several subgroups including but not limited to scientists, explorers, conservationists and so on.
2. Spelunkers type A: They will (or sometimes not) wear a helmet and will sometimes (or not) have a helmet mounted light and maybe an extra one in their backpack. They may (or not) have rudimentary vertical skills (most often not). They love caves and will try to follow a code of ethics as far as packing out trash, no graffiti, non-disturbance of cave biota and so on. But they're just not as avid as (we) cavers are. They also don't believe in or enjoy organized caving groups.
3. Spelunkers type B: the stoned/drunk crowd who'll bring maybe 1 or 2 flashlights for a group of people, a case of beer (and maybe a baggie of dope) and at least a couple cans of spray-paint and a "par-tay on dude" attitude. They don't feel that they need keys, permissions, permits, or ethics to do whatever the hell they want. They feel that caves are for everyone and anyone, and will let anyone and their grandmother know where caves are at because they hate us secretive folk... who in turn hate them for their wanton destruction and callous treatment of the underground environment.

At least that's how I classify different folks that go into caves. :shrug: It all depends on what they bring with them.

People say "oh, you're a spelunker huh?" and I used to correct them. Now I just smile and nod and say yep, love it. That seems more satisfactory to a lot of folks that don't or haven't explored caves before.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby ArCaver » Aug 1, 2008 7:30 pm

I've meet many self-proclaimed "cavers" who turn out to be Mag-light carrying "no-helmet-for-me" types with nary a clue about safety, proper technique or conservation. I hate to think about how many turned out to be artifact diggers. A couple I caught red handed. I've also met a few, mostly older folks who still proudly call themselves spelunkers.
The definitions in Ralph Powers are generally true but I also know way too many cavers who fit part of definition 3: dope, alcohol, no permission or permit...
Some of these seem to think caves are just for them and are quite secretive.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby mgmills » Aug 3, 2008 8:29 pm

People I work with and my mom often ask me, "Have you been spelunking lately?" I usually just say yes or no (depending on when I last went caving). In my previous job I had invested a lot of effort in explaining that we really prefer to call it caving and be called cavers but in my current job (which I have been in for 3 years) I have decided it really isn't worth the trouble. :roll:

The general public mostly thinks spelunker and spelunking are the correct terms. :shrug: The fact that I know I'm a caver is enough for me.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Mudduck » Aug 3, 2008 9:35 pm

mgmills wrote:The general public mostly thinks spelunker and spelunking are the correct terms. The fact that I know I'm a caver is enough for me.


Ditto. However I don't know what to label my best friend. He follows all the rules except the helmet issue. unless we're on rope he won't were a helmet. The ironic part is we're both aircraft mechanics for the Air Force. I've watched him pop his head on the bottom of a plane. Maybe once he does it in a cave he'll learn his lesson. I just call him "crackhead". Any good nickname suggestions?? :big grin:
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Mudduck » Aug 3, 2008 9:37 pm

Mudduck wrote:were a helmet


Sorry I meant "wear a helmet" I've been in Mississippi way too long. :shrug:
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Rick Brinkman » Aug 3, 2008 10:03 pm

Lately, I've started to look at it the other way..."caver" is more of a snobbish term to make people feel superior to those that are just starting out and don't have the experience/equipment yet. Or even know that such things exist.(kind of like when I started out)

And, yes, I'm guilty of doing it too.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Aug 4, 2008 7:35 am

Ya know what term really burns my bum, "temblor." It's an *EARTHQUAKE* for petessake!

The news just *can't* seem to not use that word! I hate it when a new story says, "An earthquake just struck Japan. The US Geological Survey listed the temblor as 6.5 on the Richter scale." The USGS would NEVER list a *temblor*. Who the heck ever says, "Hey, Joe. I just heard on the news there was a temblor on the San Andreas"?

ARGHHHHH!!!!! Yet with "spelunker" the general populace is so exceedingly proud of itself when it gets to use that word. Of course after I've explained, my friends jump and and do the explaining for me when someone else learns that I'm a "spelunker."
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Aug 4, 2008 8:31 am

Mudduck wrote:
mgmills wrote:The general public mostly thinks spelunker and spelunking are the correct terms. The fact that I know I'm a caver is enough for me.


Ditto. However I don't know what to label my best friend. He follows all the rules except the helmet issue. unless we're on rope he won't were a helmet. The ironic part is we're both aircraft mechanics for the Air Force. I've watched him pop his head on the bottom of a plane. Maybe once he does it in a cave he'll learn his lesson. I just call him "crackhead". Any good nickname suggestions?? :big grin:

Too many times I've seen Spelunkers (both type A & B) crack their heads on a cave ceiling and I just keep to myself and go on... knowing they've seen me in my gear as I go past them in a popular wild cave.
If given a chance I tell them the (true) story of a scout master who died after falling six feet on to his head while in a cave. That makes the non helmet wearers think a bit. Then I throw a suggestion of going to a thrift store and look for old construction helmets to wear on their next trip -- hey, better than nothing and they can be very cheap. I refuse to go caving with anyone who doesn't have a helmet and I keep spares in my jeep.
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby Caver1402 » Aug 4, 2008 8:51 am

NZcaver wrote:Do you notice non-cavers like to enthusiastically drop the "s-word" like it's the answer to an exam question? You say you're a caver, and they immediately dazzle you by sharing their knowledge of a big word which they think means the same thing. :roll:


Oh, that is so, so true! :rofl:
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby TheFrenchman » Aug 4, 2008 10:13 am

I've definitely shared all those experiences, non-cavers excited about using the term, mistaking the two for the same etc. I agree with the connotative classification of spelunkers into two groups-well done there. However, it should be pointed out that the origin of the term is off.

Although it could easily be mistaken for onomatopoeia, as presented at the beginning of this thread, it actually comes from middle English, from French, From Latin and originally from Greek. It has the same root as speleological (current english) and spéléologie (current French). Not quite as amusing as "the sound a clumsy caver makes when falling into water". That's pretty damn funny, :rofl:
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby George Dasher » Aug 4, 2008 2:55 pm

is spelunking a derogatory term?

It really ain't worth worrying about...
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Re: spelunking derogatory term?

Postby NZcaver » Aug 4, 2008 5:19 pm

Rick Brinkman wrote:Lately, I've started to look at it the other way..."caver" is more of a snobbish term to make people feel superior to those that are just starting out and don't have the experience/equipment yet. Or even know that such things exist.(kind of like when I started out)

I don't know about caver being a snobbish term. Maybe some consider it so. As I recall, the word spelunker wasn't really uttered at all by the public or anyone back in NZ where I started caving. So although I was aware of the term, I only learned the negative connotations associated with it here when I moved to the US.

Sure, people go caving with no experience/equipment of their own and do fine. Some of the smart ones realize it could be a good idea to seek guidance from more experienced people, who might also be happy to loan out appropriate equipment. If a person exhibits this kind of thought process sooner or later, I'd consider them to be a "novice caver" with potential rather than a "spelunker" who may or may not have potential, and may or may not understand or care about the safety or environmental issues associated with caving.

Ultimately, I think George is right. A word really ain't worth worrying about too much. Worry about caving safely and softly instead, and have some fun too.
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