Hari's Corner

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The problem with Political Correctness in language

Filed under: People and society by Hari
Posted on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 at 09:06 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:12 IST)

I just feel that the whole concept of PC is flawed because that it is extremely selective in application and only to certain issues or certain groups of people who are, for the lack of a better term, more powerfully offended by the usage of certain terms than others.

Take the example of the recent race row in India's Cricket tour to Australia. Harbhajan Singh was accused of calling Andrew Symonds a "monkey", which is supposedly a racist taunt (I wasn't even aware of this before the issue arose). Now how do you decide whether "monkey" is more offensive than say "bastard" which is a deadly insult in India where we hold family traditions sacred? Or how do we, as Indians, explain that "monkey" is a term of endearment used commonly to describe a naughty child and with no offensive intent? Yet, the other side hardly bothers to understand the cultural differences and prefers to wallow in indignant self-righteousness.

Another example of meaningless political correctness is using the term actor used in both masculine and feminine contexts. That's just a ridiculous practice adopted by the media. The funny thing about it is that even the same newspaper doesn't adopt this usage consistency and columnists frequently revert to the feminine form "actress."

Even though it's simply not in my nature to use crass or vulgar language, I feel that if every group of politically sensitive people start lobbying successfully to ban specific words or phrases, very soon dictionaries will shrink to half their size. And of course, Political Correctness will remain an exclusive weapon of the group with the largest voting power because they can and will impose their version on the others.

Let me just say I'll accept Political Correctness the day when you accept my list of offensive words/phrases/language usage in the same way that you want me to accept yours... :roll:

10 comment(s)

  1. Exactly the point, Hari. PC is stupid. Let's take Star Trek for example. It started in the 60s with "where no man has gone before". By the time next generation aired, it was changed to "where no ONE has gone before" for the sake of PC. Anyone with any common sense and any knowledge of history would know that "woman" is a superset of "man", so "man" covers both genders in the way it was used.

    I think people who want to be PC should kiss me on my honky cracker rear end.

    Comment by RT Cunningham (visitor) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 10:25 IST #
  2. True, RT. I know that there are words that really hurt people when used in certain contexts, but the way PC works, it seems that maximum energy is wasted in discussing/sorting out the most trivial issues. And also the way in which certain pressure groups impose those standards on the common people.

    Until every group of people living on the planet can come up with a list of really offensive words in every language, it's a farce to divert the attention from the real issues in sensitive areas like racist, religious or gender discrimination.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 10:36 IST #
  3. The new header image is good...

    Comment by Shrinidhi hande (visitor) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 12:29 IST #
  4. Thanks Shrinidhi. It comes from a photo I took at sunset in the desert in Doha.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 17:16 IST #
  5. I know exactly what you mean. Where I grew up people were proud of their Redneck heritage. But then, thanks to a few white supremacists and that Jeff Foxworthy guy, suddenly it became a bad thing.

    Comment by Ernie (visitor) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 20:14 IST #
  6. Ernie, I'm curious to know whether the term 'redneck' is considered a racist term or not in your country and in parts of the US.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 20:16 IST #
  7. I'll answer for Ernie. It's not racist. It's more along the lines of "trailer trash", "dumb hick", etc. It crosses the racial lines.

    Comment by RT Cunningham (visitor) on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 @ 23:41 IST #
  8. Thanks RT. Yes, I was aware of the sensitive nature of such terminology, but I think you're right. We all love Blonde and Redneck jokes though. :-p

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sun, Feb 10, 2008 @ 07:14 IST #
  9. My main problem with political correctness is that you stop being descriptive. When I was growing up, "disabled" was an acceptable term. Now we're supposed to use "differently abled". Everybody is differently abled.

    Admittedly, PC does help with racist terms. At one time, in the UK at least, anyone who looked vaguely Indian would have been called a "Paki". Even people who were merely a little dark skinned and had never been anywhere near the area.

    What PC does is blur those lines, stop you being somewhat descriptive (blind people are "sight impaired", but so are people who wear glasses) and stop us celebrating the differences between us and make everyone one big homogeneous lump.

    Comment by Ray (visitor) on Sun, Feb 10, 2008 @ 14:50 IST #
  10. Ray, you're right. My opinion is that the corruption of language is only a minor by-product of PC. I feel that the heart of the problem lies in attitudes of certain groups who feel overly protective about their own identities/identities of other groups in their sphere of interest.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Sun, Feb 10, 2008 @ 17:53 IST #

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