By Nathan Barton
The Blaze has a lengthy article about Brit universities (and some American schools) banning certain common English words from use. No, it isn’t the n-word or the k-word or even those four-letter words that used not to even show up in dictionaries.
Rather, they are words which are “sexist” or “bigoted” or “not culturally diverse.” Even though they are words which have been in the English language as long as there has BEEN an English language. We are talking about words like “he” and “she” and “his” and “hers” – as well as any word which has a “-man” or “-woman” suffix or has “man” in any way: mankind and humanity and salesman (or saleswoman) and even man-hours. It is wrong to refer to “people with disabilities” or “blind people” – and apparently it is borderline to even refer to “visually-impaired” or “mobility-impaired.” Because people don’t like to be lumped into groups, or so the argument goes.
All of which is clearly a rebellion against the tyranny which language imposes on people: college students (and faculty, staff, and administrators) are supposed to be liberated from that tyranny. They must make sure that everyone is included, if necessary by eliminating the words which are intended to “include” people. Thus there are no longer “waiters” and “waitresses” but rather everyone is lumped together into the category “servers.” At least until THAT word is also prohibited, and all of the staff of a restaurant is lumped into the category “associates” or “employees” or just “them.”
This is, at best, feel-good emotional, false-front political posturing. Yes, I realize that language is important. But it does not give any more liberty to anyone, and it does not take liberty or freedom away. At least not directly. At the same time, changing the language – either by redefining common words (consider “marriage”) or by prohibiting common words (waitress/waiter, he/she), is an effort (successful too often) in brainwashing.
But who (at least among those who claim to be libertarian) can say anything against fighting tyranny – even if it is the tyranny of the inanimate? Like language?
I submit that those who do so are being sold a bill of goods. There is tyranny and then there is tyranny. The laws of motion, for example, are incredibly tyrannical. As is the law of gravity. Who would object to its repeal, or at least ignoring it? But to do so is both foolish and irrational. Wise people learn to live with action and reaction, force and momentum, and yes, even gravity.
Indeed, there is good reason, even for lovers of liberty, even for anarchists (the true ones, not the nihilists that claim the title nowadays), to accept the tyranny of language – of words that are precise in meaning and distinguish subtly between different people and situations and objects. It ensures that we are able to communicate effectively and efficiently between ourselves And good communications usually (if not always) is an encouragement and a means of promoting liberty. To say nothing of just being able to live.
Of course, like all tools we use, it can be put to ill use, to serve as the means to evil ends. Good communication promotes unity, and unity can be used by evil people to promote and enforce their tyranny. But while a common language and good communications can be used for bad purposes, poor communications and restricted use of language – limiting the words and therefore attempting to limit (or eliminate) the concepts which the words represent – always has an evil impact.
So, as far as I’m concerned, forget about replacing “he” and “she” and even “it” with “ze” (or, as SF editor John Campbell once suggested decades ago, tongue firmly in cheek, a four-letter pronoun that could replace all three: he, she, and it). Forget about getting rid of “history” or supplementing it with “herstory” and replacing “salesman” and “saleswoman” with “seller” or “waitress” and “waiter” with “server” or no longer using various terms. If communication is made more efficient and effective by using politically-incorrect words, chalk me up as being politically-incorrect.
Mama’s Note: Those who wish to go through life with muddled language and poor communication are certainly free to do so. It will eventually wash out, because they will not be able to communicate with anyone eventually, not even each other.
The problem here isn’t language or communications, really. It’s the same old, same old of some people working very hard to control other people. Each individual is responsible for him or herself (I decline to even recognize all the other so-called “genders”). As for me… I’ll spend the rest of my life in the ongoing quest to enrich and extend my vocabulary and the precise use of the English language. I have no interest in either cutting or replacing words to satisfy PC precious snowflakes. On the other hand, I’d like to see words like “government” (the non-voluntary sort) hit the dustbin of history.