Cumberland Times-News

Columns

May 11, 2013

Where is the ridicule, now that we need it?

Some of those who build and sell houses no longer refer to the “master bedroom.” It is now the “owner’s bedroom.”

This would have done me no good when I was still renting an apartment, because I didn’t own the place. And it wasn’t the owner’s bedroom, because she never slept there.

I just called it “the bedroom,” which is what I call one of the two rooms where I sleep in the house I now own. The other is called “the living room,” because I sleep there in my recliner. (My parents used to call it “the front room” because it’s in the front part of the house.)

According to The Washington Business Journal, homebuilders are eliminating the term “master” bedroom because it has “dominant male or slaveowner connotations.”

What are mechanics are going to have to start calling the master cylinder and slave cylinder, which are parts of an automobile’s hydraulic system?

My first recollection of an attempt to foist politically correct linguistic change upon us dates to 1978.

The Woonsocket, R.I., town council voted to change “manhole” to “personhole,” but was subjected to so much ridicule that it rescinded the action two weeks later.

About the same time, a woman decided to legally change her name from “Zimmerman” to “Zimmerwoman.”

But it may go back even farther. A popular female wrestler of the 1950s called herself “Slave Girl Moolah.” Then, almost overnight, she became “The Fabulous Moolah.”

If it’s politically incorrect, there’s a chance I won’t object to it ... although I would consider some changes to be reasonable.

It’s not unreasonable for a woman who belongs to a fire department to be called a “firefighter” instead of a “fireman.”

“Firefighter” is perfectly acceptable, and so is “mail carrier” ... although “letter carrier” might be even better, considering that “mail” and “male” are pronounced the same.

“Mailperson” would be just as absurd as “fireperson.”

When a lady attorney friend of mine joined the state’s attorney’s office, I congratulated her upon becoming a “prosecutrix.” (Hey, Amelia Earhart was an “aviatrix.”)

She just stared at me for a while, then decided I was just being Goldy.

When the same lady admonished me for saying, “Indian” instead of “Native American,” I told her that I am a Native American, and so were my father and my grandfather. My great-grandfather was a Native Englishman. Got the same response.

Most of the time, I could care less what people call things.

If someone wants to go on about Negro Mountain or the Washington Redskins, I tell them, “Look around, and I’m sure you’ll find someone who would be happy to argue with you about that. It would not be me.”

I do try to avoid saying things that would genuinely hurt someone’s feelings. That’s easy enough to do without meaning to, and there are certain descriptive words I refuse to use on the grounds that they offend me.

Here, from the Newspeak Dictionary, are a few once-common terms that have been replaced by terms that are more politically correct in today’s world, with my own italicized comments added where appropriate:

Broken home / dysfunctional family. One of my numerous ex-girlfriends said her family put the fun in dysfunctional.

Factory / plant. (Newspeak says “factory” is a place where mistreated laborers worked long hours to produce pollution that belched forth from giant smokestacks; “plant” has a natural connotation.)

Fat / enlarged physical condition caused by a completely natural genetically-induced hormone imbalance. More likely the result of an unnaturally high consumption of calories.

Illegal aliens / undocumented immigrants. Or, as some folks like to call them, unregistered potential Democrats.

Jungle / rain forest (Newspeak says happy Walt Disney characters live and frolic in the rain forest; lions, tigers, cannibals and diseases live and lurk in the jungle.) Lions, tigers and cannibals seem not to discriminate by gender, so perhaps we should call them “person-eaters.”

Natural disaster / unnatural event caused by man’s destruction of the environment. More likely, it is a perfectly natural event of the type that nobody paid any attention to until television news began concentrating on such things and “Global Warming” and “Climate Change” became popular. There have always been forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes; we’re just getting in their way a lot more than we did when the population was smaller.

Sex change / gender reassignment. Considering what’s involved, “gender reconstruction” might be more appropriate.

Swamp / wetland (Basically the same reasons that a “jungle” is now a “rain forest.”)

Sometimes, we don’t change words and terms to be politically correct, but to make them sound better.

What once was a jail is now a “detention center,” and a prison is a “correctional institution.”

A “dump” is a “landfill.” A crash barrier is an “impact attenuator.” A “soldier” is a “war fighter” (Marines are still Marines, and don’t refer to them as soldiers).

“Stewards” and “stewardesses” are “flight attendants.” “Secretaries” are “adminstrative assistants.” “Sales clerks” are “associates.” Some “teachers” — although by no means all of them — are “educators.”

“Reporters” are “journalists.” No. I am not a journalist. I was a newspaper reporter until I became a newspaper editor. There is a difference. Any dumb (four-word Anglo-Saxonism) can pick up a laptop or a camcorder and call himself a “journalist.”

As Goldy’s Rule 140 says: Painting “Titleist” on a spheroid of horse manure doesn’t turn it into a golf ball.

Frankly, it’s just a matter of time until Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy are at Little Round Top, and we meet a New Yorker who tells us, “I’m from Personhattan Island.”

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