Saturday, January 31, 2009

Remember Political Correctness? - Superperson, Dicjanetionaries, and an Article in a Processed Tree Carcass

Remember when terms like "womyn" and "waitron" were accepted (or required), but "battered spouse" wasn't? When, if you were a college student, every week or so you were informed of the currently correct term for persons whose ancestors moved across the Bering Strait about 20,000 years back?

If you don't, you missed one of the more colorful periods of America's cultural history.

Nostalgic About the Thought Police?

It's not to late to enjoy the afterglow of political correctness. Lists of words and phrases from the glory days of the thought police are online.

A small selection, with a mini-micro review for each:
  • "A List of Politically Correct (PC) Terms" (
    • Listed for laughs, this compilation is flawed, and (IMO) funny
  • "Politically Incorrect Dictionary" (part of the Newspeak Dictionary - as of today, over 2,000,000 thought criminals served)
    • Takes the Orwellian aspects of politically correctness rather seriously
    • Features a quite short list of PC terms
  • "Politically Correct Terms & Phrases"
    (Joke Break,
    • The most comprehensive list of the lot
    • Includes terms which I remember from the seventies and eighties, which do not appear in the other two - like
      • "Animal companion" for "pet"
      • "Legalized rape" for "marriage"
    • Is opinionated
      • "Politically correct" for "rude"
    • Needs to be taken with a grain of salt
      • Puts opinion, sarcasm, and straightforward records in one list
As a handicapable person in a relationship of legalised rape (I'm not making that up) with a domestic engineer, I've learned to ignore the silly seriousness of political correctness (being leagues away from a college or university helps), and enjoy the humor.

Criticism of the Word Police - in The New York Times

I think a sign that political correctness has been recognized as an alternatively relevant philosophy is that The New York Times published a cautiously critical article on the subject. Almost 15 years ago.

I found it, after stumbling across this letter to the editor:

"Advancing The Gender-Neutral"

The New York Times (February 7, 1993)

"To the Editor:

"Brava to Ms. Kakutani for her informative and insightful article on politically correct word usage. I have not read the dic(Jane?)tionaries that Ms. Kakutani mentioned, but found the excerpts she cited most interesting. Let us do away with such obviously offensive terms as 'bull market'...."

Michiko Kakutani's article:

"The Word Police"
The New York Times (January 31, 1993)

" THIS month's inaugural festivities, with their celebration, in Maya Angelou's words, of "humankind" -- "the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew/ The African, the Native American, the Sioux,/ The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek/ The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,/ The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,/ The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher" -- constituted a kind of official embrace of multiculturalism and a new politics of inclusion.

"The mood of political correctness, however, has already made firm inroads into popular culture. Washington boasts a store called Politically Correct that sells pro-whale, anti-meat, ban-the-bomb T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons, as well as a local cable television show called "Politically Correct Cooking" that features interviews in the kitchen with representatives from groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"The Coppertone suntan lotion people are planning to give their longtime cover girl, Little Miss (Ms?) Coppertone, a male equivalent, Little Mr. Coppertone. And even Superman (Superperson?) is rumored to be returning this spring, reincarnated as four ethnically diverse clones: an African-American, an Asian, a Caucasian and a Latino...."

"...For the dedicated user of politically correct language, all these rules can make for some messy moral dilemmas. Whereas "battered wife" is a gender-biased term, the gender-free term 'battered spouse,' Ms. Maggio notes, incorrectly implies 'that men and women are equally battered.'..."

As the song said, "...the times they are a-changin'."
I ran across some of these pages while doing research and Web surfing recently. In the interests of bringing these gems from the wonderfully weird world of human nature to your attention, I wrote this post, and "Now there are Two "Heroes of the Hudson " (January 31, 2009).


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