While we enjoy the seasonal trimmings of our various family Christmases, whether they be politically incorrect or kosher for the ‘elf and safety brigade, spare a thought for the never-ending work of changing public behaviour/perceptions by mangling the language.
Most thoughts and writings go under the politically-correct microscope these days. Obviously to make racially, ability or gender offensive remarks is unacceptable. Indeed it can be classified as ‘hate crime’. It’s just that PC has gone way beyond that.
It’s thought the movement began in Frankfurt in the 1920s by people who wanted to spread communism faster, and so determined to undermine individual thoughts and attitudes, to force an ‘acceptable’ language.
We know now that local authorities spend millions on staff diversity and equality training. In some, the word brainstorming has been outlawed, as offensive to people suffering epilepsy or mental illness. Nitpicking is upsetting to people with headlice.
Christmas has been deemed offensive to people who do not recognise the season for religious reasons. Some authorities prefer Winterval, or the Winter Season, in its bland inoffensiveness. Never mind those who are offended by Christmas being renamed. In New York some years ago, Halloween celebrations were banned as offending ‘real witches’.
Health and Safety is the excuse for much that goes on in Britain today. You can’t argue with sensible requirements to save life and limbs. You can argue with the over-the-top, gold plating of safety rules that make traditions, habits, family and cultural events no longer possible.
Lip-Service or Heart-felt Change?
Some words, such as black-hearted and black cloud are deemed by some to be racially derogatory. In Beccles, an area was called Black Boy Meadow since the 1500s, but many campaigned to have it renamed. The toy ‘gollywog’ is widely regarded as inappropriate for today, and a woman was taken to court in Suffolk (2011) for putting one in her house window that upset some people.
Manpower, manhole, manhandle, mankind, humanity, history are offensive to women, according to some. Even ‘women’ itself is ‘of the man’. The term chair has broadly replaced chairman on most authorities and committees. The jury is still out on whether all this policing of language makes a difference in people’s hearts, or do they simply give lip-service to the approved words?
Not One Word If Six Are Better
A modern habit is renaming job descriptions, to make them more PC. A waste disposal operative used to be a dustman. A hospital ward sister is now a modality manager, a lifeguard is a wet leisure assistant and call centre staff are variously, communications executives, or collection/recoveries credit services advisers.
An airplane sickbag has become a stomach distress receptacle, a wino an alcohol abuse survivor and someone who is psychotic is socially/mentally misaligned. Beer gut (liquid grain storage facility); wrong (differently logical); worst (least best); ugly (cosmetically challenged); bald (follicle regression) and short (anatomically compact) are out. Stupid is holding to an alternative mental perception. A shy person is conversationally selective, and a shoplifter is a non-traditional shopper.
Murder is apparently better called arbitrary deprivation of life and a dead person clearly nonliving or metabolically different or awaking to immortal life, basting the formaldehyde, cooling to room temperature, starting the eternal yawn, permanently out of print, kicked the oxygen habit or taking an earth bath.
In TV sitcoms Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn created the perfect PC sausage: 32% fat, 6% rind, 20% water, 5% seasoning and colouring, accurately labelled an elongated emulsified high-fat offal tube.
Some Made Up Ones, or Are They?
Imagine Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs updated: Neutral Coloured Non Gender Specific Lifeform and the 7 Vertically Challenged Lifeforms.
Consider these imaginary festive/seasonal job descriptors: Chimney Dimension Directive Enforcement Officer; New Year’s Eve Harmonisation Enabler (across all time zones); Person Gender Advice Operative; Crackers’ Noise Abatement Adviser and Father/Mother/Transgender Christmas jobs for December in every department store.
Modern Man Monologue
Finally, Modern Man is a four-minute monologue from American comedian George Carlin, which will delight you as he describes all the modern words, phrases, jargon and cliches that describe a man living today, on the cusp of 2012.
‘I’m a modern man, a man for the millennium. Digital and smoke free. A diversified multi-cultural, post-modern deconstruction that is anatomically and ecologically incorrect. I’ve been up linked and downloaded, I’ve been inputted and outsourced, I know the upside of downsizing, I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a high-tech low-life. A cutting edge, state-of-the-art bi-coastal multi-tasker and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond!
I’m new wave, but I’m old school and my inner child is outward bound. I’m a hot-wired, heat seeking, warm-hearted cool customer, voice activated and bio-degradable. I interface with my database, my database is in cyberspace, so I’m interactive, I’m hyperactive and from time to time I’m radioactive.
Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve, ridin the wave, dodgin the bullet and pushin the envelope. I’m on-point, on-task, on-message and off drugs. I’ve got no need for coke and speed. I’ve got no urge to binge and purge. I’m in-the-moment, on-the-edge, over-the-top and under-the-radar. A high-concept, low-profile, medium-range ballistic missionary. A street-wise smart bomb. A top-gun bottom feeder. I wear power ties, I tell power lies, I take power naps and run victory laps. I’m a totally ongoing big-foot, slam-dunk, rainmaker with a pro-active outreach. A raging workaholic. A working rageaholic. Out of rehab and in denial!
I’ve got a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a personal assistant and a personal agenda. You can’t shut me up. You can’t dumb me down because I’m tireless and I’m wireless, I’m an alpha male on beta-blockers.
I’m a non-believer and an over-achiever, laid-back but fashion-forward. Up-front, down-home, low-rent, high-maintenance. Super-sized, long-lasting, high-definition, fast-acting, oven-ready and built-to-last! I’m a hands-on, foot-loose, knee-jerk head case pretty maturely post-traumatic and I’ve got a love-child that sends me hate mail.
But, I’m feeling, I’m caring, I’m healing, I’m sharing– a supportive, bonding, nurturing primary care-giver. My output is down, but my income is up. I took a short position on the long bond and my revenue stream has its own cash-flow. I read junk mail, I eat junk food, I buy junk bonds and I watch trash sports! I’m gender specific, capital intensive, user-friendly and lactose intolerant.
I like rough sex. I like tough love. I use the “F” word in my emails and the software on my hard-drive is hardcore – no soft porn.
I bought a microwave at a mini-mall; I bought a mini-van at a mega-store. I eat fast-food in the slow lane. I’m toll-free, bite-sized, ready-to-wear and I come in all sizes. A fully-equipped, factory-authorized, hospital-tested, clinically-proven, scientifically-formulated medical miracle. I’ve been pre-wash, pre-cooked, pre-heated, pre-screened, pre-approved, pre-packaged, post-dated, freeze-dried, double-wrapped, vacuum-packed and, I have an unlimited broadband capacity.
I’m a rude dude, but I’m the real deal. Lean and mean! Cocked, locked and ready-to-rock. Rough, tough and hard to bluff. I take it slow, I go with the flow, I ride with the tide. I’ve got glide in my stride. Drivin and movin, sailin and spinin, jiving and groovin, wailin and winnin. I don’t snooze, so I don’t lose. I keep the pedal to the metal and the rubber on the road. I party hearty and lunch time is crunch time. I’m hangin in, there ain’t no doubt and I’m hangin tough, over and out!’
- The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook, by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, Grafton Publishing, 1992.
- George Carlin, Modern Man YouTube.