Thursday, May 1, 2008

Political Correctness: The Language and the Lens

The triumphalism of 1990s-style identity poltics is written in euphemism. Of course it is. The self-consciously Bowdlerized language of political correctness can be cloying and earily Orwellian; sometimes it's just absurd and unintentionally funny. It is always humourless and Puritanical in nature, but very occasionally it gets things about right. Hey, even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.

Consider this piece (rant?) by Tim Murray, entitled "Reclaiming the English Language from the CBC":

For example, the homeless are now the “involuntarily undomiciled”. And a drunk is “a person of differing sobriety.” While a junkie is merely someone with pressing pharmacological preferences. Someone who is untrustworthy is just “ethically disoriented” while a lazy man is only “motivationally deficient”. Someone chronically late is “temporally challenged” and a prostitute is not a streetwalker or a whore but a “sex care provider” presenting themselves as a commodity allotment with a business doctrine. As a white man, I am a “mutant albino genetic-recessive global minority”, and the diction I practice is in reality just the style and writing imposed upon the world by “patriarchal white lexicographers.” Standard English is “capitalistic patriarchal hegemonic discourse.”


Ministers of Labour, meanwhile call their union-busting legislation “right to work” laws and the scabs that are used to break strikes are accorded a more morally sanitized name, “replacement workers”. Trade union officials that haven’t the guts to tell their membership that they calling for amnesty for ‘illegal’ workers instead say they wish to “regularize” them. And they are not illegal, they are undocumented, even though they used forged documents to get into the country. Finance Ministers call the stock market crash “an equity retreat” and warn we may experience “negative economic growth”. Couldn’t use the word “contraction” if it killed them. Conservation officials call the mass slaughter of wild animals “game management” and the Environment Ministry describes the explosive destruction of a nuclear reactor core like Chernobyl’s as a “core management event”

The full column here.

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