Playing the Indian Card

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pinkies Must Be Out While Drinking Tea!

Archie Bunker with age-challenged individual.

My wife is taking a course in Technical Writing here in the Philippines. Her textbook includes a section on politically correct language, and suggests the following alternatives. It is interesting and informative to see it all done from a non-North American perspective.

Examples are simply in the order given.

For "Angry," write "Passionate" or "emotional."

Like most examples of "politically correct" language, the problem is that the replacement is meant to obscure or confuse rather than communicate information. As a result, it defies the basic objective of writing, and so is bad writing. "Emotional" can mean many things, only one of which is "angry."

Moreover, it describes the person, rather than the emotion. You are saying of anyone who gets angry that they are habitually angry, that they have a character flaw. It might instead be healthy and righteous anger; you are accusing them of one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

For "Asians," write "Pacific Islanders."
Did you see that one coming? So it is now offensive to call anyone "Asian"? This is obviously meant, although it is not specified, to refer only to Filipinos. Technically correct, but still confusing, so long as you do not also refer to Japanese or Taiwanese as "Pacific Islanders." Which I doubt is intended.

The bottom line here, no doubt, is that many Filipinos prefer "Pacific Islanders" because it makes the Philippines sound like an American possession. Like Guam or Samoa--that is what is normally meant by "Pacific Islander." They would rather be associated with Americans than Chinese. They are not reconciled to the idea of Philippine independence. Cute, but daffy.

For "Autistic," write "Special child."
This is the usual problem--trying to obscure rather than inform. There are many ways in which a child can be special. And actually, a lot of them are worse than autism. Are you doing the autistic kid any favour, by conjuring up all these other possibilities? Ever see "Rosemary's Baby"?

For "Bald people," write "Comb free."
Good joke. But they're actually serious.

For "Black sheep," write "Outcast."
Okay, the problem is plain enough--associating the colour black with anything negative is currently a problem, because "black" is also used to describe subSaharan Africans. A bit odd that this would be an issue in the Philippines, though. Here it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that "black" referred to people instead of sheep. It shows the prevalence of American culture.

For "Blind," write "Visually-impaired."
This is just wrong. Visually-impaired means partial vision. Blind means no effective vision. 

And isn't it offensive to suggest that there is something wrong with being blind?

For "Deaf," write "Hearing-impaired."
Same problem. Simply an error.

For "Gifted," write "Advanced learner."
Agan, two different things. A gifted child is just as likely to be lagging behind the slated curriculum, in an average school. Because they are bored. Many advanced learners are not gifted, and many gifted children are not advanced learners.

For "Incapable," write "Fertility-challenged."

This again is funny. It reveals where Filipino values are. Having children is close to the point of life; so "ability" automatically means the ability to have children. Take note, all you foreigners considering Filipina brides. She WILL want children, and if you do not, it is heartless not to give her clear advance warning. And don't forget to wave goodbye.

Here the replacement is far more specific than the "bad" word. Which is itself surely already a euphemism. Why not "infertile"?

For "Insane," write "Mentally-challenged."
This is grotesquely wrong. It implies that insanity is cognate to stupidity. This is the reverse of the truth: the greater the intelligence, the higher the likelihood of insanity. The lower the intelligence, the more likely to be "sane." This bit of "political correctness" directly promotes prejudice, and spreads a falsehood in order to do so.

For "Janitor," write "Sanitarian."

If there is something wrong with being janitor, whatever happened to "building custodian"? "Sanitarian" means a public health worker, and is simply wrong for "janitor."

For "Lazy," write "Different interest."
Again, sounds like a joke. How will the reader be able to guess the real meaning?

For "Negro," write "African American."
Again, this shows how influential American culture is in the Philippines. Because, of course, this "correction" is nonsense, and will introduce an error, anywhere outside the USA. And we are outside the USA. How many African Americans are there in Zimbabwe or Canada or Jamaica?

The text is at least more honest than usual about what "politically correct" language is all about. It is usually represented in Canada, or the States, as meant to reduce discrimination and/or to protect the feelings of the group referred to. It usually does the exact opposite. Even the very resort to euphemism obviously implies there is something wrong with belonging to that group.

The text includes this nonsense explanation, but it feels like it does so as a matter of rote. It adds that the terms you use reflect which schools you attended. And that is exactly right, exactly the point. Filipinos get this, because the Philippines is a far more class-conscious society than the US or Canada. The point of using "politically-correct" language is that it is a class marker. It shows you went to the right schools and know the secret handshakes. You are not a member of the unwashed working class, not an Archie Bunker.

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