A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet? 2

 

This quote from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet (see full quote) reminds us that the notion of Political correctness, politically correct, or PC (which  is a societal form of linguistic etiquette used to protect people from being offended by remarks made concerning their occupation, age, gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, physical or mental disability, and overall physical appearance) has been with us for centuries. But do you think it’s “gone mad” in reference to a widely used catchphrase associated with the conservative British newspaper the Daily Mail ? Some examples of PC:

    • “Native American” instead of “Indian”, “Red Skin” or other derogative terms
    • “African American” instead of “Black”, “Negro” or other derogative terms
    • “Mentally challenged” instead of “Retarded” or “Retard”
    • “Visually challenged” instead of “blind”
    • “Hearing impaired” instead of “deaf”
    • “Asian” instead of “Oriental” (to designate a person)
    • “Hispanic” instead of “Mexican” (although some Mexican-Americans are reclaiming their native origins as a way of showing pride in their culture)
    • “European American” instead of “white”
    • “Gender” instead of the word “sex” to distinguish between males and females
    • Gender-neutral terms such as “firefighter” instead of “fireman”, “police officer” instead of “policeman”, “flight attendant” instead of “stewardess”, “bartender” instead of “barman/barmaid”, etc.

The last example which has people talking in the US was, according to the Associated Press, “the U.S. military’s use of Geronimo

as a code name for Osama bin Laden. This has tarnished the achievement of the raid by insulting an American ethnic group, Native American tribal leaders and advocates told Congress on Thursday. Comparing the legendary Apache leader (considered the last free apache Indian who fought against the colonial expansion of American and Mexican troops into Apache tribal lands in the nineteenth century)  to a terrorist and enemy of the United States was deeply insulting and did real damage to Native Americans of all ages, said Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a Washington-based Native rights organization. “It is shocking, really shocking, that this happened,” said Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. Harjo called the incident a painful reminder of a pattern that goes back to the founding of the country. “Our names are stolen and then we’re renamed in order to control us, frankly,” she told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “My dad was not an enemy when he helped win World War II.” Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Indian Affairs panel, said he was dismayed at the use of Geronimo’s name in the raid that killed bin Laden. Why did the Apache nation react so violently? Watch the following video to find out more about their history:

“This victory has otherwise united our country, and it’s unfortunate that this code name was chosen,” Akaka said

Do you think we can make fun of PC like the American comedian Wali Collins does on Comedy Time?:

Are we just becoming a nation of pussies (cowards) or is PC just a way of showing respect for others? The issue seems to be more complex as many scholars in the US are examining what effect the pressure to conform to currently fashionable ideas is having on education. (see the Western Humanities Conference which took place at the University of California in Berkeley in 1990). Are there some words or topics which should be off-limits even at the expense of re-writing history or literature to conform to modern views and sensibilities? Peter Hitchens in his book The Abolition of Britain, says: “What Americans describe with the casual phrase . . . ‘political correctness’ is the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since the Reformation”. Do you agree? If you are interested in this subject, take a look at the video which denounces the changing of the “n-word” to “slave” in New South Books’ new edition of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” They defend themselves by saying that its edition is an “alternative for teachers who want to use the books in their classrooms, but are unable to present them in their original form because of pressure from parents or administrators to exclude the books”. If you’re interested in listening to a debate on this topic and learning more about how American minority groups think of it, click here: The ‘N-Word’: Is it ever ok to say it? Now what do you think about PC? Take this poll to voice your opinion:

2 comments

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