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Maiming a superb language

Comment and History from a Prairie Perspective

I say with conviction and great annoyance that the manipulative practice of political correctness is intended to disguise realities, to turn unpleasant visages into expressionless masks.

One of the latest efforts has been what is captioned as "banning the R- word." This means banning the use of retard in all its forms and tenses so that is never used in reference to children who are in some way obstructed from developing normal intellectual and physical skills. The proposed restriction on the use of this innocent word does not bar us from retarding the flow of raging rivers, retarding the spark on a Model T Ford or retarding the overuse of flatulent food. This is confusing. In fact, the whole idea is downright silly.

English is a superbly expressive language. It can produce shades of meaning that are precisely honest, from the sublime to the loathsome. No word is unacceptable of itself. The fault is in its inappropriate use. As a writer, I want to use any word in the language that makes it possible for me to convey events, images and ideas in the exact way I want to convey them. Interference by any authority, secular or religious, is a threat to personal freedom.

Each one of us, whether we recognize it or not, has a responsibility to use only such words as are appropriate to the circumstances. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, however, I need to be able to use, without penalty, the sulphurous words I consider appropriate to those circumstances

When I was young and innocent, I knew hurtful words that were applied to racial or religious minorities. Not knowing any better, I spoke them. Most young people today have no knowledge of the terms, which is good. To excise them from the lexicon, however, would be to remove part of a social scene which has faded into history.

A sanitary engineer still picks up garbage and a custodian still sweeps the floor., In warfare, "collateral damage" means killing and wounding non combatants or even "friendly forces." When a missile goes astray, will it soon be referred to as "projectile dysfunction?" I am waiting.

Political correctness is an encouragement to coin and to use euphemisms, to be dishonest with ourselves and others.