The latest PC nonsense

Report here about the latest list of do not and must use words. For example, we should not use "seminal" or "disseminate" as these are rooted in "semen" and thus are sexist.

The full list is here.

To be honest, the full list isn\’t all that terribly bad. It\’s certainly better to have people muttering dimly about whether to use "black", "African Caribbean" or "Afro-Caribbean" than it is to have them debating whether to use "nigger" or "kaffir".

There is however a problem with some of the terms….and I mean a real problem, not just look how we can laugh at these silly sociologiests. That is that some of their insistences actually lead to a loss of meaning, a shading of distinctions.

"Wheelchar bound" should be replaced with "wheelchair user" for example. But the two have different meanings. Bound implies no choice, user implies choice. That granny using her electric scooter to run over your toes on the way to the shops is a user, but she may well amble, perhaps somewhat slowly, around her won home. Oscar Pretorious might use a wheelchair at times but he\’s certainly not bound to one.

Similarly, "mute or dumb" and "speech impaired person" are not synonyms. The latter implies impediment, the former complete incapacity.

For most of these things I don\’t in fact mind: if the sociologists are wasting their time on drawing up these codes then they\’re at least not doing anything more dangerous. The new phrases very quickly pick up the implied meanings of the old anyway, once they\’ve bedded in. But when they trample all over one of the glories of the English language, our ability to make very fine distinctions, then they do need to be resisted.

10 thoughts on “The latest PC nonsense”

  1. I detest the lot, putting them in the same category of would be dictators as those who’d criminalize the English system of measures, etc.

    Currently, and for many years, ‘tho how many I couldn’t say (less than about 50, there’s been a “style” rule calling for comma separation between words or phrases in a series of two or more but not following the penultimate (displacing the older form in which the penultimate would be followed by a comma).
    It’s actually a stupid “improvement” (I’d class it as a neologism) because in very many (but by no means most) cases, phrase complexity requires rereading (or re-speaking) to get the thought properly when the distinction between the final phrases consists–unclearly–only in the word “and” (or other corelative). The newer form doesn’t simplify–it complicates because there will still be instances where it is necessary to use a comma. Not only that, but the newer actually requires more attention to discerning those places where a comma need be used to avoid confusion or misreading. In discussing this matter with others (different writers or editors in different situations) each one, in attempt to support the status quo against my argument, fell back on the same ridiculous argument: that the elimination of the often “superfluous” comma (when multiplied by all the possible occasions for its use) had the beneficial effeCt of SAVING INK!

    I also note, for the record, that these consummate craftsmen of style, in a masterwork intended for dissemination to all mankind (at least of the varieties using English) have managed to misspell “epileptic” immediately adjacent to their properly-spelled “epilepsy.”

    Tim adds: Technically you’re talking about the “Oxford comma”. Any sub who tries to change your use of the comma here (either way around as it happens) will shrink in fear before a writer who says “I use/do not use the Oxford comma my dear man”.

  2. I liked their confusion between “Dear Sirs”, which they assume refers to the abstract person (cf “Dear Sir”) and, in their view, should be replaced by “Dear Sir/Madam” and the appropriate salutation for referring to a body corporate.

  3. “When referring to America, it is important to be aware of
    the fact that there is a North America and a South America
    – not just the US. Consequently, ..” So tough titty, Central America. They are sociologists and therefore duds.

  4. “new phrases very quickly pick up the implied meanings of the old anyway, once they’ve bedded in”

    A few years ago, I was required as a senior manager to participate in a job fair for “diverse” candidates.

    Anyone care to guess how “diverse” they were?

  5. I hope these wastes of skin aren’t planning on convening a seminar to discuss the proposals.

    A frequent source of hilarity in situations like this is the right-ons’ misapprehension of the etymology of supposedly offensive words (herstory etc. ad nauseam). The quintessential example of this was the hapless US functionary who was fired (and later reinstated) for using the word ‘niggardly’. But there’s also a delicious example from the movie “Legally Blonde” (which, like its heroine, is a lot smarter than it appears). The womyns-studies boor is hectoring the dim-bulb jock character about how English is sexed and says that a ‘semester’ should be renamed an ‘ovester’ to avoid the sexist root ‘sem’ as in semen. Of course that’s not where the etymological boundary lies: it is se|mester, meaning six months (as per tri|mester).

  6. There’s some Disney kids messageboard where the moderators have to ban 500 or so ‘bad words’ every day as the kids find new and inventive methods of getting meanings across, these are kids.

  7. Tim:

    I appreciate that it may not be a matter of compulsion (though I don’t know which way is the “Oxford” way). My essential criticism of the style without the penultimate comma is that it is diametrically opposite the specific intent of punctuation and grammatical rules: it takes a simple, rigid, easy-to follow style rule that simplifies, speeds, and enhances ease of understanding and replaces it with one that is complicated and (at least many times) obstructs and slows reading and thought-transfer. As a matter of fact, in the face of such objection, I can’t think of a single justification for the sometime-omission OTHER than that it saves ink and some muscular effort. If it originated “over there,” maybe it got a peerage for its originator. Over here, in sensible times, it’d have gotten the guy “tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.” That was an honored custom at one time, enough for Mark Twain to note that one such honoree had remarked, “that, if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk.”

  8. “When referring to America, it is important to be aware of the fact that there is a North America and a South America – not just the US. Consequently, ..”

    But there is only one country with America in its name — United States of America (you know, USA)

  9. My Mother was a wheelchair user. She couldn’t walk very far at all, but she was able to get herself in and out of the chair.

    My Father was physically fit, but rather deaf (though not profoundly so). As a result, he would talk very loud. I remember standing with him in the queue for flu vaccinations, when his voice boomed out across the entire surgery: “What are we calling the niggers nowadays, is it still darkies or have we moved on to something else?”

  10. Non disabled person instead of able bodied person? So now we need a double negative to convey a straightforward positive concept? Perhaps a we should also call persons of normal sanity non mental health service users.

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