POLITICALLY CORRECT

After Walter Mondale was soundly trounced by Ronald Reagan who won 49 states in the 1984 election, “loser” was added to the list of abusive words ; it became the kiss of death for any politician to be so labeled. This word could no longer be spoken out loud in mixed company.

A school in Seattle renamed its Easter eggs ‘spring spheres’ to avoid causing offence to people who did not celebrate Easter. Any terms using the word ‘man’ as a prefix or suffix have been ruled as not being politically correct. ‘Manhole’ is now referred to as a ‘utility’ or ‘maintenance’ hole!

Political correctness first germinated in a think tank called The Frankfurt School in Germany in 1923. The purpose was to find a solution to the biggest problem facing the implementers of communism in Russia. Maybe the politically correct phrases would lead to a level playing field and induce an egalitarian society, they thought. However, it’s the eighties when the term really caught on.

But now its just about being “nice to people”, and treating them with proper respect. It could be also called good manners. People are sentimental about many things, and all measures must be taken so as to not offend somebody. So those who have died are referred to as “differently alive’’, and we say “Companion animal” instead of pet !

Somebody with “Ample proportions’’ is actually obese or fat, “Armed intervention’’ is a phrase, the diplomats use for “war”, “Between jobs’’ is what the genteel use instead of “unemployed’’.

A traditional figure of speech called Euphemism has always been used to cloak an offending word and replace it with a better sounding and less explicit substitution. Political correctness is just a novel term for the same literary device.

The sprouting of these “morally correct’’ expressions can be attributed to the spread of media, increased intermingling of cultures, and the burgeoning communication technology. As one’s communication reaches people of a different background, more and more unacceptable words are discovered and have to be replaced by benign words or phrases. Even if these phrases are much longer and at times appear satirical, they are now in vogue.

Thus “Disinformation’’ replaces “Lie’’, “Rebels’’ become “Freedom fighters’’, “Indisposed” means ”Sick’’ and “Inventory leakage’’ is a subtler though longer way of saying “Theft”!

A writer or speaker has a responsibility to ensure that his content does not offend or prejudice children, even if his sentences don’t remain succinct. So we substitute midget with “vertically challenged’’, “fat’’ with “ horizontally challenged” , “dishonest’’ with “ethically disoriented’’ “fired’’ with “laid off ”, “blind’’ with “visually challenged” and “poor’’ with “financially inept”.

If you work with a corporate, remember a great company never cancels any event, it’s just “rescheduled”. You never make a mistake, its just an “error of judgment”. And calling anyone “dumb”, however idiotic he may be, can cost you your job, so just stick to “cerebrally challenged”.

Often non-verbal communication can also cause damage to some folks. For instance, an angry sports person gesticulating on the playground, an image or photograph displayed by an advertiser or a cartoon or caricature that spites anyone’s sensibility, can all boomerang.

You have to be careful, a “homeless’’ sounds churlish, so better replace it by “residentially flexible’’; “second-hand’’ must become “pre-owned”. “Collateral damage” means “Civilian casualties’’ and a “prison” is impertinent so better make it a “correctional facility”!

A journalist could be sued for libel unless he calls an “ insane’’ as “reality challenged’’, ”Lazy’’ as “motivationally dispossessed”,Murderer” as “termination specialist” and a Nerd” as “under-attractive” !

Unless you want to be ostracized for being a racist, be careful to address a “black” as “african american’’ ,” red indian’’ as “native american” , and a “ latino “ as “ Hispanic “.

Police cannot “suspect” anybody anymore, they can just call him a “person of interest”. No one is “unsure”, it is a “conceptual conflict”.

One has to be suitably attired for the occasion in order to be politically correct. One has to spruce up in a dark suit and tie for a board meeting. At a mourning, one has to wear a colour depending on the culture of the place. At a Hindu home, don’t forget to remove your footwear before entering.

Even one’s actions, positions on issues , choice of candidates one votes for and treatment of animals is closely audited. You have to mind your net- etiquette, and remember public display of affection can be either okay or egregiously bad depending on place and culture.

The way we refer to someone with a physical disability has changed several times in the last 30 years or so: first, the highly offensive crippled gave way to handicapped, but then that was also seen as offensive, so the preferred adjective chosen was disabled. But disabled is not without its critics, who dislike its focus on what a person can’t do rather than what they can. This has led to newer expressions such as physically challenged and differently abled.

These constant changes in ‘politically correct’ terms have attracted a certain amount of mockery. Not surprisingly linguist Stephen Pinker has called this ever changing verbal landscape as a ‘‘euphemism treadmill ’’!

 

Abusive

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; characterized by physical or psychological maltreatment; expressing offensive reproach

Synonyms : insulting, opprobrious, scurrilous

Attired

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; dressed or clothed especially in fine; garments often used in combination

Synonyms : appareled, dressed, garbed

Audited

Contextual Meaning(s) : examined carefully for accuracy with the intent of verification

Synonyms : scrutinized

Benign

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; pleasant and beneficial in nature or influence; kindness of disposition or manner; not dangerous to health;

Other Meaning(s) : not recurrent or progressive (especially of a tumor)

Synonyms : benignant

Boomerang

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; return to the initial position from where it came; & hit the originating source.

Other Meaning(s) : noun a curved piece of wood; when properly thrown will return to thrower; a miscalculation that recoils on its maker;

Synonyms : backfire

Burgeoning

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; growing or becoming bigger.

Synonyms : expanding, proliferating

Cerebrally

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; in the brain; in an intellectual manner

Synonyms : intellectually

Churlish

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; having a bad disposition; surly; rude and boorish

Synonyms : choleric

Cloak

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; hide under a false appearance

Synonyms : mask

Crippled

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; disabled in the feet or legs

Synonyms : lame, gimpy

  • Caricature

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; a drawing, description, or performance that exaggerates somebody’s or something’s characteristics for humorous or satirical effect

Synonyms : drawing, sketch

Diplomats

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; officers in a countries foreign embassy.

Synonyms : foreign officers

Disinformation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; misinformation that is deliberately disseminated in order to influence or confuse rivals (foreign enemies or business competitors etc.)

Synonyms : deception

Egalitarian

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; favoring social equality;

Synonyms : equalitarian, classless

Egregiously

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; Shamelessly by (bad or civil)

Synonyms : blatantly

Euphemism

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; an inoffensive expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive

Synonyms : political correctness

 

Explicit

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; precisely and clearly expressed or readily observable; leaving nothing to implication; in accordance with fact or the primary Meaning(s) of a term

Synonyms : expressed, denotative

  • Euphemism

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; a word or phrase used in place of a term that might be considered too direct, harsh,

Synonyms : offensive

Genteel

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; marked by refinement in taste and manners

Synonyms : urbane, cultured, polite

Germinated

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; took birth, was originated.

Synonyms : conceived

Gesticulating

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; making gestures (usually by hands) while speaking

Synonyms : hand movements

Impudent

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; marked by casual disrespect; improperly forward or bold

Synonyms : insolent, impertinent, saucy

Indisposed

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; somewhat ill or prone to illness

Other Meaning(s) : (usually followed by `to’) strongly opposed;

Synonyms : averse, unwell

Induce

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; reason or establish by induction; cause to do; cause to act in a specified manner; cause to arise; cause to occur rapidly;

Synonyms : stimulate, cause

Inept

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; revealing lack of perceptiveness or judgment or finesse; generally incompetent and ineffectual; not elegant or graceful in expression

Synonyms : tactless, feckless, awkward, clumsy, cumbersome

Inventory

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a detailed list of all the items in stock; (accounting) the value of a firm’s current assets including raw materials and work in progress and finished goods; the merchandise that a shop has on hand; a collection of resources;

Other Meaning(s) : verb make or include in an itemized record or report

Synonyms : stock, armory

Impertinent

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; characterized by a lightly pert and exuberant quality; improperly forward or bold; not pertinent to the matter under consideration

Synonyms : Irrelevant

Libel

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person;

Other Meaning(s) : noun the written statement of a plaintiff explaining the cause of action (the defamation) and any relief he seeks; verb print slanderous statements against

Synonyms : defamation

Midget

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; very small in height; noun a person who is markedly small

Synonyms : bantam, diminutive

Mockery

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; humorous or satirical mimicry; showing your contempt by derision; a composition that imitates somebody’s style in a humorous way

Synonyms : parody, lampoon, spoof, burlesque, travesty, charade, pasquinade

 

Mourning

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one; the passionate and demonstrative activity of expressing grief

Other Meaning(s) : Adjective; sorrowful through loss or deprivation;

Synonyms : bereavement, lamentation

Novel

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; pleasantly new or different; original and of a kind not seen before;

Other Meaning(s) : Noun; a printed and bound book that is an extended work of fiction; a extended fictional work in prose; usually in the form of a story

Synonyms : refreshing, fresh, new

  • Ostracized

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; exclude form a society or group.

Synonyms : shun, exclude

Prejudice

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation;

Synonyms : prepossess, bias, preconception

Satirical

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; exposing human folly to ridicule

Synonyms : lampooning

Spites

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; hurts someone

Synonyms : injures

Sprouting

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the process whereby seeds or spores sprout and begin to grow

Synonyms : germination

Spruce

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; dress and groom with particular care, as for a special occasion; make neat, smart, or trim

Other Meaning(s) : Adjective marked by up-to-dateness in dress and manners; noun any coniferous tree of the genus Picea; light soft moderately strong wood of spruce trees; used especially for timbers and millwork;

Synonyms : preen

Succinct

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; briefly giving the gist of something

Synonyms : compendious, compact, summary

  • Subtler

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; slight and not obvious

Synonyms : understated

Trounced

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; Comprehensive defeat.

Synonyms : crushed

Vogue

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the popular taste at a given time; a current state of general acceptance and use

Synonyms : trend, style, currency

 

 

 

Leave a Comment