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05272013 Executive Session:Should we Still Call antique Carpets "Oriental Rugs"? by Rodney Hakim

By Rodney Hakim
5/27/2013 Executive Session:

By Rodney Hakim
Persian Gallery Co., Inc.
New York, NY

NEW YORK -- Here at Persian Gallery New York, we often refer to our antique decorative carpets by the more traditional term, "oriental rugs."
In an interesting editorial that was recently published on the carpet industry website,, editor Lissa Wyman makes the point that the term "oriental rugs" is antiquated, and no longer accurately reflects the hand-woven carpets that are popular today. (To see the original article, click here)

Being "oriental rug" dealers, this article raises the question, should we abandon the use of this phraseology? Should the usage of term "oriental rugs" be phased out, in favor of the phrases, "antique decorative carpets," "hand-woven carpets," or the terms mentioned in Ms. Wyman's article, "neo-traditional" or "transitional" carpets?

Like anything else, the answer depends on whom is being asked the question. Some people, like the ones cited in Ms. Wyman's article, find the term "oriental rug" to be outdated, antiquated, and no longer accurately reflective of the product it refers to. People in this camp often prefer terminology that gives a clearer designation of the weave of the carpet, such as "hand-knotted," or "hand-loomed." Some favor phraseology that is more commonplace in today's design lexicon, such as the aforementioned "transitional" and "neo-traditional." Yet others find the word "oriental" to be offensive and/or politically incorrect, as that word has fallen out of favor, and "Asian" or "Middle Eastern" are currently more acceptable names for items from those regions.

On the flip side of the coin, other people prefer to keep the usage of the phrase "oriental rugs" around, particularly to distinguish between the antique and semi-antique rugs imported from the Middle East (primarily Iran, or as it was called at the time, Persia) in the early twentieth century, and the modern rugs being woven today in such areas as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Nepal, and China. Some people are generally agitated by the political correctness of contemporary speech, and determinedly hang on to the phraseology of such things as "oriental rugs," as that is what they grew up with in the pre-PC era.
Perhaps we should throw this weighty question to some of the sages of yesteryear. In the classic play, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare opined that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," meaning that whether you call a rose a "rose" or a "verdant blossom of reddish hue," it's still the same pretty flower that smells nice and gets you out of trouble with the wife. A great poet of a more recent generation was known to say, "You say potat-OH, I say potat-AH, you say tomat-OH, I say tomat-AH."

In other words, different people have different preferences in what represents "acceptable" terminology, and what is passe or undesirable. At PGNY, we maintain that we try to be inclusive of whatever people's phraseological preferences are, whether they call our products, "antique carpets," "used carpets," "oriental rugs," "vintage hand-woven floor coverings," or whatever else. We're happy to sell them the best rugs and carpets that they can find anywhere, regardless of what they call them.

We do draw the line, however, at the phrase "flying carpets," which we find utterly unacceptable, and offensive to flight-challenged carpets and textiles the world over.

(ED NOTE: This article first appeared May 24, 2013 on the Persian Gallery website.. To see Rodney Hakim's full blog post click here)

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