APRIL 2001

Politically Correct (PC)

Political correctness--political and otherwise--covers not only fact and grammar, but sensitivity to race, sex, religion, age, ability and alternate lifestyles. And although it seems to have started as a largely American phenomenon, it seems to be spreading rapidly around the world.

I have no objection to saying "flight attendant" instead of "stewardess," "police officer" instead of "policeman," or "firefighter" instead of "fireman." But I am among the legions whose tongues are paralysed at the prospect of saying the wrong thing, using the wrong term. Society is composed of a diverse bunch and there are forever more toes to step on. And I truly believe we are going overboard. You've got to be careful what you say, what you think, and what you do. You just don't want to offend anyone.

Why has an "actress" suddenly become an "actor"?

Some politically correct choices will come off as trendy, militant, or insincere. Shoot for accuracy, clarity, and common sense. For example, the generic use of "his" -- as in "Everyone has a right to his opinion" -- seemed old-fashioned even before the dawn of political correctness. The politically correct solution of writing "his/her" is awkward and tedious. Rewrite those phrases with plural pronouns or an "a," "an," or "the," as in "Everyone has a right to an opinion." Easy enough.

Ethnicity (we no longer use "race") has become a big PC area. In the U.S. blacks are African-Americans; Orientals, Asian-Americans; Indians, Native-Americans. The following sports teams are NOT PC: Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins - and I can guarantee that serious attempts have been made to change at least one of these names (Redskins)!!!


Some examples that have gone mainstream :

Old term

Secretary, Girl Friday
Broken Home


Hair stylist
Physically challenged
Home invasion
Visually challenged
Hearing impaired
Dysfunctional family

There are many other ways to be PC. For example, why buy regular ice cream when you can buy "Rain Forest Crunch?" Separate all of your garbage into different containers: glass, metal, white paper, blue paper, plastic, etc. Make sure that none of your make-up has been tested on animals. Try to find at least sixty ways to use your water; when you take a shower, brush your teeth at the same time. Then don't let the water go down the drain, use it to irrigate your lawn. Or better yet, replace your lawn with a vegetable garden. Don't use aerosol.

Harass people who wear fur coats. Remind them that an innocent baby seal was mercilessly clubbed. Or just yell "FUR." They hate that. And don't EVER eat meat. Hug a tree. Rejoice each day in our cultural differences. Get in touch with your sexual identity. Check your refrigerator for freon leaks. Subscribe to National Geographic. Search it for cool non-Western cultural traditions and costumes. After you read it, use the paper as an alternate fuel source.

And on a humorous note:


"InsensitiveTerm" -> "Preferred Term"
Housewife -> Domestic Engineer
Janitor -> Environmental hygienist
Poor -> Economically Unprepared
Bum -> Homeless Person, Displaced Homeowner, Philosophy Major
Bald -> Comb-Free, In follicle regression
Cigarette smoking -> Assault with a deadly weapon
False Teeth -> Alternative dentation
Ghetto -> Ethnically Homogenous Area (EHA)
Slum -> Economic Oppression Zone (EOZ)
Cheating (in School) -> Academic Dishonesty
Gang -> Youth Group
Pimp-mobile -> Culturally Responsive Transportation Option
Illiterate -> Alternatively schooled
Liar -> A person creative with the facts

Did you know there are now politically correct, environmentally safe, east-west, multicultural dining tools? I am not making this up. They are called forkchops, a combination fork-and-knife and a pair of chopsticks and they are for sale on the Internet! Check it out!

Jackie Walters