Everyone is familiar with the term ‘political correctness’ and the controversy its frequent absurdity creates. In theory, political correctness serves the purpose of reforming language to remove the offensive items and replacing them with supposedly non-offensive alternatives. More accurately it seems that everyone who is not a white, young to middle-aged, middle class, mainstream academic achiever, healthy male, is caught up in a never-ending process of name changing.
The PC brigade does not see people as individuals but is instead eager to place each and every one of the population, who isn’t the white male ‘norm’, into a slot as part of a never ending quest to create and name groups in a manner which won’t offend.
For example, people over sixty have been called ‘elderly’, ‘senior citizens’ and are currently ‘older people’. The language describing disabilities are too awash with political correctness; a topical issue being whether it is less offensive to say ‘user of a wheelchair’ or ‘wheelchair user’. The names of ethnicity groups are also subject to frequent reform. At present the law states that any person living in Britain who is not White British falls into the category of ‘Black and Minority Ethnic’ instead of the former ‘Black and Ethnic Minority’.
It’s a matter of time until the current okay-to-use terms, like their previous, will be regarded as offensive. Notably though, for the most part the general public will be none the wiser to any of them, raising the question of how discrimination can effectively be combated, in language at least, with such lack of communication between those PC and those ideally PC. Then rises the question of whether linguistic change will actually make Britain a better place.
In schools children no longer sing ‘Baa baa black sheep’ because it is said to promote racism. Instead the nation’s offspring are making music with ‘Baa baa rainbow sheep’ or ‘Baa baa happy sheep’, or no sheep at all. Humpty Dumpty can no longer be ‘cracked’ because by doing so he will encourage drugs. Children’s books and television containing alleged traces of homosexuality or anything else deemed unsuitable have been criticised or disappeared, encouraging a more naïve and intolerant age group rather than the open minded alternative, at the expense of innocence.
No one spared the innocence of my generation as we watched the blatantly sexual Captain Pugwash, Roger the Cabin boy and Master Bates and hollered ‘Baa baa black sheep’. Yet fond memories of singing nursery rhymes (albeit containing words which one day would be heavily scrutinized) and unknowingly watching adult humour have not bred a generation any more or less racist, drug infested or sexually charged than any other. If anything, because we were brought up in the days before politically correctness went mad, and escaped being exposed to discriminatory language and actions previous generations were surrounded by, we are more open minded and tolerant; aware of how and why everyone is different, and accept this accordingly.
Feminists, (a term which will one day perhaps be replaced with ‘persons challenged on their acceptance of male dominance’), have campaigned for all manner of things. Rumour has it they protested to have Manchester renamed Personchester. Though more beneficially they have successfully achieved sex-neutral terms for different occupations, such as ‘fire fighter’ removing the ‘generic man’ nonsense the English language is full of. Similarly, the use of ‘flight attendant’as opposed to‘stewardesses rids the exclusion of males in the profession. Undisputedly it’s easier to feel more suited to a job when the very name doesn’t exclude you.
Political correctness is out to sabotage the sexually biased generic ‘man’ and ‘he’ and apart from opinions of the odd chauvinist, the use of ‘they’ or ‘s/he’ are welcomed improvements. It has been suggested that the words ‘mankind’, ‘human’ and ‘person’ should also be changed, however seen as the proposed alternative is ‘earth children’, which would imply our species never reaches adulthood and no doubt become a disability labelled as ‘chronologically challenged’, it is not difficult to see why the generic man is staying put.
Whilst women are on the whole becoming more included in language, sexism is still rife, partly evident in the fact many women are paid less and the convictions in rape cases are alarmingly low, whether they are discussed using politically correct terms or not.
What is more, amidst the seriousness of what politically correctness stands for and confusion of what it actually does, PC often goes an incy wincy little bit too far.
In terms of anatomy, should a guy have a small manhood he is no less of a man but ‘phallically challenged’ and if someone has a large nose they are not to be teased but seen as ‘nasally gifted’. The PC brigade has not forgotten the dead members of our society. Words for a deceased person range from ‘biologically challenged’ to ‘living impaired’, and a corpse can be labeled a ‘permanently static post-human mass’. This also applies to animals, with ‘compressed maladapted life form’ being the politically correct for road kill, (which you could avoid by driving more carefully in your ‘culturally responsive transportation option’ – car).
With regards to personality, if a person is dishonest they are ‘ethically disorientated’; if incompetent they are ‘uniquely proficient’ and if clumsy one is ‘uniquely coordinated’. A criminal is an ‘unsavory character’ and a dirty old man is more aptly titled a ‘sexually focused chronologically gifted individual’.
There are politically correct terms for those who lead a drugs sex and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. When under the influence of alcohol, one is not drunk but ‘spatially perplexed’, if stoned one is ‘chemically inconvenienced’ and if on more hardcore drugs there is the label ‘chemically challenged’. In terms of sexuality there is the choice of being heterosexual, gay and lesbian or ‘sexually non-preferential’, the former bisexual.
Our dietary preferences have not escaped the reign of PC language. The traditional ploughman’s lunch is now ‘plough persons lunch’ and, perhaps a little more radically, cannibals are now not into cannibalism but ‘intra-species dining’.
The feelings of inanimate objects have also had their feelings spared, for example, a top with spilled tomato ketchup on is not stained as such, but ‘creatively re-dyed’.
The great outdoors have been caught up in PC action. A jungle is now a ‘rain forest’ and a swamp is now a ‘wetland’ and according to one website, trees are now ‘oxygen exchange units’. One can only hope that trees are satisfied with that title.
Clearly then, what is needed is a weekly newsletter of what we are meant to be saying, and what is so-last-week in the world of PC. And I wait with baited breath for the day when there is a politically correct term, for politically correct.
Outlet of politically-correctness-gone-mad charged frustration brought to you by a tolerance of idiocy challenged earth child actively terminated. (Rant over kids).