Friday, April 13, 2012

Political Correctness Corrected


When I was in graduate school studying language, I complained to a colleague that political correctness was stupid and had gone too far.  He pointed out that studies had shown that language does matter.  For example, if you said "mailman" or "fireman" to someone,  they'd imagine a man.  That language can create a stultifying atmosphere for a woman who is trying to find a job.  From then on, I tried to keep an open mind about political correctness.

Years later, I read a book on the Booth family called American Gothic.  It describes one of the moments that turned John Wilkes Booth against Abraham Lincoln when he heard the President give a speech on equality from the White House.

"That means nigger citizenship!" he said.  The author pointed out that the word "nigger" didn't have its derogatory meaning back then.

That passage got me thinking about progress and political correctness.  Can anyone argue that it was a bad thing to stop using "nigger" and start using "colored?"  What about when we went from "colored" to "negro" and from "negro" to "black?"  It only seems when you mention "African-American" that (white) people get annoyed and complain about political correctness.

After years of pondering, I realized the problem: politically correct terms are lame.  If we want people to embrace new terms, we need to make them sound cooler.  I've created a list of minorities, religions, and oppressed groups with my proposed names for them below.  If you're not on the list, you're not being oppressed, but feel free to make up your own.

Group
Suggested Name
Jews
The Chosen
African-Americans
Originals
Chinese
Dragon People
Japanese
Sunbeams
Women
51 Percenters
Muslims
Numerators
Firefighters
Smoke Stompers
Mail Carriers
Email Anachronists
Homosexuals
Guardians of Taste
Elderly
Grey Team
Atheists
Thinkers
Disabled
Strongers

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