The Old Coot learns a new language, the hard way

This took me a while (more mulling it over, than actual time with pen and paper) to find a politically correct way to write about Political Correctness. Just who decides what is politically correct and what isn’t? Who makes the rules? Not, I venture to say, the “offended” party. More likely, some pretentious, look down their nose at the great masses type of person who, when they were in elementary school, were either the teacher’s pet (do they have them anymore?) or the class tattletale. 

I must admit, I was plagued by both types when I was in grade school (as it was called in my day). The few times I raised my hand with the correct answer in my head, instead of faking it and hoping not to be called on, the teacher’s pet got the nod. I only was called on when I was goofing off and didn’t even hear the question. The tattletales back then were often the teacher’s PET as well, and never missed it when one of us passed a note, threw a spitball or slipped a piece of Juicy Fruit gum out of our pocket. They immediately reported us to the teacher and we ended up “doing time” in the hall, the cloakroom or when it was a serious offense, enduring a “chat” with the school principal.

I’m positive the politically correct movement grew because of the two types of “do gooders” I grew up with: the tattletalers and the teacher’s pets. When I make the slightest mistake, and say Indian instead of Native American, a grown-up tattletale is right there to point out my offense. I’m not talking about truly racists, sexist or crude designations. I’m talking about a minor misstep, the kind that most of us make every so often. Mostly because we don’t have a subscription to the Politically Correct Newsletter. 

This approved way of speaking (and thinking) extends far beyond the use of insulting or cruel words and phrases. It has expanded to such a degree that it reminds me of George Orwell’s “Newspeak” in his famous book, “1984,” where it (Newspeak) was used to limit a citizen’s freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression and free will. Our current form of Newspeak goes even further. You can’t mention you had a burger and fries at MacDonald’s without getting a “Tsk, Tsk,” from the Newspeak crowd – “Bad, bad food! Eat salad!” Child’s play is another target. NO DODGEBALL. – Tie scores at all peewee soccer, baseball and lacrosse games. Fairy tales are out – Too scary! The mean stepmother in Cinderella, the troll under the bridge and the witch in Hansel and Gretel are taboo – even though fairy tales started the process to help kids understand that there are bad people and bad outcomes in the real world. 

Buy a dog? Even that gets critiqued, “Is it a rescue dog? Did you buy it at a pet store? Did the breeder do a background check on you before letting you “adopt” the dog?” (The correct answers are: Yes, No, Yes.)

The worst thing about Newspeak is the “Gotcha!” factor. You make an innocent, and rather mild, slip of the tongue and the “Masters” of correct language pounce! That is their modus operandi; Brow beat and publicly shame you into conforming. But still, I wonder, who is it that makes the rules?

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