Thursday, December 11, 2003

Well Said!

George Carlin has a brilliantly scathing routine centered on how Americans rely on soft language to avoid hard truths about death, disability, poverty and racial tension. "That guy's not economically disadvantaged,'' is the gist of Carlin's monologue. "He's f***ing broke.''

While many of us (if not all of us) will use a euphemism or two through the course of the day to grease the social wheels, to get along, or spare someone's feelings with little or no harm, there can be consequences. George Orwell pointed this out time and time again:

"Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

The obvious and obviously stupid obfuscations of governments and big media such as "collateral damage" instead of "dead civilians" have become so mind-numbingly commonplace as to be the butt of jokes or to be simply ignored. The military has always had a flair for linguistic lunacy. Perhaps it is the nature of their mission that makes it so, they deal in horrors most of us would rather not face. Yet, it does take a toll. There is more than a grain of truth to the old adage that if you are to repeat something long enough and loud enough, it will eventually become "true."

Now that the personal has been politicized, there is no stopping what has become known as political correctness or PC. While many well-meaning people argue this horrific language with twisted brutish constructions is necessary in order to provide more "friendly" or "sensitive" environment. It might be construed as more "kind" to say someone is "aurally challenged" but in reality it ignores what is in front of your nose – this individual is deaf. He knows he is deaf, you know he is deaf, but if you add five syllables and construct a fuzzy imprecise clause…well, it just will not seem as bad.


Not every group perceived to be worthy of victimhood and entitled to protection from the slings and arrows of outrageous language are as enchanted with the notion as their "protectors" might have wish. Recently in Britain, the Teacher Training Agency told its pupils to avoid using the word "brainstorming" for fear it might offend epileptics. There are a lot of good reasons to avoid using the word "brainstorming," but offending a group afflicted with a neurological disorder is not one of them.

It appears that organizations involved in issue relating to epilepsy took umbrage with the student teachers overweening concern. Gemma Baxter, from the National Society for Epilepsy, had this to say:

"We also contacted people with epilepsy in the community and the overwhelming response was that 'brainstorming' implies no offence to people with epilepsy, and that any implication that the word is offensive to people with the condition is taking political correctness too far."

Well said, Gemma, well said.


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