(* Pain in the Coccyx)
I’ve just heard that a group of prospective Santa Clauses in a training program have been told that “Ho, ho, ho” is henceforth out of bounds because some women might be offended by the connection with a slang and derogatory term for women in street slang. The Santas were advised to say, “Ha, ha, ha” instead. You can’t make this up. This never would have occurred to me in a million years. You have to be actively searching this stuff out, with a zealotry that makes fundraisers seem introverted.
To the credit of several pseudo-Santas, they quit the training program. To that I say, “Ho, ho, ho!”
PC has gone beyond the satirical curve. I heard a “diversity trainer” address a group by abruptly beginning with the fact that she and her husband were “child free,” which was a “more sensitive term” for her than “childless.” Of course, like all politically correct gurus, she actually had a private agenda, protecting her own sensitivities and poor self-esteem, since the phrase she used implied those of us who were parents were “child-burdened” (or “imprisoned”?).
I’ve sat in sessions and heard someone with a straight face tell me that “service covers” was a better term than “manhole covers.” Why is that? Are women upset that ugly utility devices that are run over by semi-trailers and urinated on by dogs are not named after them as well? Where does this nonsense end? Naval ships are always addressed in the feminine: “She was a great ship, fighting to the end.” Do we say, “He or she was a great ship?” Somehow, the magic isn’t there.
We can’t name storms solely after women any more, on the grounds that this habit set back female opportunity in the workplace and offended at least six people in downtown New York. I’ve been advised that “firefighter” and not “fireman” is the only acceptable formulation, yet I’ve also read of senior female military officers who insist on being referred to as “sir.”
Do you recall the school administrator who was fired (and rehired only after a rare, intellectual rebellion) for using the word “niggardly” when the two women to whom he was talking assumed it was a racial slur? (Look it up.) The school board figured it was close enough to a slur (!), and canned him for his insensitivity and broad vocabulary! Since when is intellect a crime, and stupidity a cause for lodging a complaint?
Once, in the halls of a client in which everyone dressed conservatively and alike, I asked someone if he, she, or it could point out the senior vice president of finance. He, she, or it gestured down the hall to two men, trying to distinguish between the tone of the grey suit as they moved, since neither was constantly on the right or left. The individual then attempted to distinguish the tie color.
“One of them is white, and one of them is black,” I deftly pointed out. “Perhaps we could use that as a determinant?” How scared are we of the thought police? Perhaps as scared as we are of the pronoun police.
After speaking for GE one day, I was approached by a woman who said, “I want to compliment you on your inclusiveness. You used male and female pronouns and alternated your references.” Five minutes later, another woman got into my face and claimed, “You listened to male questioners longer than female questioners, and didn’t choose as many females in your question and answer period.”
I can do without both of these women, listening for personal agendas that had nothing to do with my content—and there were another three dozen people present who apparently had not been gender-scarred by my remarks and behavior.
For a while there, an Oakland school board was trying to convince us that “I be” and “he be” (oops, or “she be”) were legitimate speech variations representing a distinct culture. As Bill Cosby points out in his recent book with Alvin Poussaint, “Come on People….,” no aircraft pilot calls in to air traffic control with “Whassup?”
Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, physical appearance, color, religion, origins, and so forth is heinous and wrong. But our outrage is cheapened and degraded by the grievance industry and the victimization marshals who insist that every shrug, moan, and nuance be examined to live up to everyone’s personal approval. At that point, meaningful conversation ceases and fear dampens intent.
If you choose not to have children by natural means or adoption, I respect your decision. But don’t tell me that it’s therefore “better” than my decision by manipulating the language. That makes you seem like you’re over-compensating, if you know what I mean.
We need to treat each other with respect, not a linguistic yardstick. Let’s all rejoice in each other’s company. And let’s stop messing with Santa. He, not she, has done pretty well.
© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.