Somewhere along the line, the world went crazy with political correctness, which I once heard described by Lorrie Goldstein (then editor of the Toronto Sun) describe as “good intentions gone berserk”.
My latest confrontation with that madness was actually fairly innocuous, but it was illuminating. It is but the latest example of the far left which is (in Canada, at least) coming dangerously close to becoming the new centre.
It’s all about controlling how people speak. I suppose that the theory behind is that if you can control how people speak, you can control how they behave and what they think.
My first run-in with politically correct speak was the word “they”. Early in my career as a teacher, I was told that the official policy of my school board was to use it instead of the universal masculine “he”. “They” was preferred (more like insisted on) because it was considered “inclusive” instead of the supposedly sexist “he”. Sadly, if produced ungrammatical gibberish like, “If a person wishes to do something well, THEY must practise.” (“He or she” would be the correct way of putting it if you thought it was really necessary to be that “inclusive”, but it’s obviously wordy.) Other awkward variants showed up like “s/he” (possible in writing but not in speech), not to mention the uber-liberated “she”.
All such efforts of the neo-Orwellians to remake the language have similar germs of illogic at their core.
Remember “negro”? Verboten in our enlightened age but perfectly acceptable in living memory. The “United Negro College Fund” still exists. And Martin Luther King used the term . . . but it’s considered racist not. And its etymology is “black” – which IS an acceptable term. Hell, the “N” word is simply “negro” put through a certain regional pronunciation. And lots of blacks use the term, supposedly to reclaim it or sound hip or god-knows-what. It’s ridiculous. And you won’t catch me calling myself “whitey”.
Even sillier is the evolution of the racist “coloured people” into the politically correct “people of colour”. What’s the difference? Word order!
I could go on . . .
But it’s all too silly to write about with a straight face, and I can’t do it the justice that George Carlin would have if he had turned his attention to it while he still walked the earth.
So let me loop back to the beginning – “oriental”. Basically, it means “Easterner”. It was was a term that we in the West (“Westerners”) used to denote people from the east coast of Asia, but somehow that became an insulting term. How? No idea. I read all the explanations I could find and none of them made any sense to me, so I’m not going to summarize them here.
Apparently, the new, sensitive term is “Asian”, but it’s just as illogical as “they” (se above), and I refuse to use it.
Because, as well as being illogical, it’s exclusionary – which I thought the PC folks said was a bad thing. Aren’t we supposed to be inclusive?
You see, the problem is that people from India are also Asian, as are people from Iran, as are Russians (who can be as white as an ethnic Norwegian).
So I guess the correct PC term would be “east Asian”.
Easterners, in other words.
Which is exactly what “oriental” means.