Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Euphamism Treadmill

       One of the more frustrating examples of keeping up with the times is the use of euphemisms. At one time the terms "idiot", "moron", imbecile" and "invalid" were accepted clinical terms. Now they are off limits and terms that include "challenged" are more in vogue. These changes also include names for ethnic groups and more. While this is not bad in and of itself, I do believe words have power and inclusiveness is the way to go, it does seem that today's euphemism is tomorrows slur. We all have made faux-pas at one time. Years back I innocently used the term "oriental" to describe something since I grew up on the term and never thought it was offensive. A decent acquaintance of mine sternly corrected me and said "Asian" was the proper term. I guess he was right but what put me off was the big cloud of smugness around him and it's that holier-than-thou attitude is what makes people so jaded with what they see as "PC". While some words such as "moron" and some racial terms are clearly out of line, there are other changes in the English language that many well meaning people have a hard time keeping up with. This is especially true in the humanitarian community including those who work with the "challenged". If for example a kind elderly person says "Today I went to see da' Indian Doctor about my arthur-itis.", it doesn't make them a bigoted monster. While I do support respectful language I believe in having patience with others who don't know the new terms yet and that the whole attitude of respect is more important than even the words. One's inner attitude will eventually shine through in their language anyway. Smugness only has the opposite effect. On the other hand many words that were once offensive have either been desensitized or reclaimed and are no longer taboo. I especially don't want to see a world of "chips on shoulders" where people always feel like they're on thin ice. That certainly won't lead to world peace.

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