I saw with amusement and sadness this week, a report that NYC’s Department of Education is adding to the list of words it wants to ban from tests for fear that they may offend certain students.
Now, in truth, these words are truly disgusting, words that probably offend you as much as they offend me.
Words like “birthday” and “dinosaur”.
The word “birthday” apparently insults people like Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t celebrate them (does this mean they never age) while the word “dinosaur” allegedly is offensive to some creationists who think dinosaurs are a lie by the scientific community intended to undermine their faith.
So … “when in Rome” as the expression goes (no offense to people who have never been to Rome), and in the spirit of encouraging the sanitization of the English language (sanitizing using only green products so I don’t offend the uber-ecologists out there), I’d like to add a few things to the list.
Things like the color blue, since blue is also associated with feeling down and so a blue sky, which suggests a beautiful day, may be deemed to be insulting to those who suffer from the scourge of depression.
Hmmmm … maybe I should add scourge to the list since scourge is often associated with the scourging of Jesus and so some atheists may be offended.
Movies like "X-Men” are gender-insensitive so we will refer to them as “X-People”. Does this imply they were once people but are no longer people? Would dead people be offended by this? A multi-million dollar government study could get to the bottom of this once and for all.
For Chinese people, the number 4 is homophonous with the word for death so maybe we should cut that one out also.
Hmmmm … I wonder if I just offended someone with the word homophonous.
Speaking of banning words that sound too close to other words, does anyone remember this incident back in 1999 when the use of the word niggardly (which means stingy or miserly) was used?
On January 15, 1999, David Howard, a white aide to Anthony A. Williams, the black mayor of Washington, D.C., used "niggardly" in reference to a budget. This apparently upset one of his black colleagues (identified by Howard as Marshall Brown), who interpreted it as a racial slur and lodged a complaint. As a result, on January 25 Howard tendered his resignation, and Williams accepted it.However, after pressure from the gay community (of which Howard was a member) an internal review into the matter was brought about, and the mayor offered Howard the chance to return to his position as Office of the Public Advocate on February 4. Howard refused but accepted another position with the mayor instead, insisting that he did not feel victimized by the incident. On the contrary, Howard felt that he had learned from the situation. "I used to think it would be great if we could all be colorblind. That's naïve, especially for a white person, because a white person can afford to be colorblind. They don't have to think about race every day. An African American does”.
Thinking of words that sound like others, I wonder if my habit of masticating in public may be offensive to some. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is go out with friends and masticate together. I don’t think I could live unless I masticated daily.
My first name, Harry, means to harass by repeated attacks, and so in this “anti-bully society” I guess I won’t be using it anymore. Maybe I can be like the musical artist Prince who changed his name to a symbol (if I can find one that doesn’t offend someone).
For all of you guys named Richard, I fear for the lawsuits you face from some overly-sensitive man-hater in the workplace if you choose to go with the common abbreviation of your name.
But alas, I digress.
This sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? If, 20 years ago, we would have said that we would have a society in the future that would try to sanitize our language so much, we would have laughed.
Where does it end? How about this?
I recently had a grievance filed against me by a client who, in the grievance, indicated that the high levels of respect and politeness that I demonstrate to people in the workplace is offensive. Apparently, such politeness implies I am up to something and so I was asked to stop demonstrating respect and politeness immediately.
What prompted this grievance?
I used the phrase “thank you”.
So why don’t we ban that also?
Think of how much time we could save over a lifetime if we stop expressing gratitude for things!
Personally, I’m offended by ignorance, indifference, apathy, greed and hate emanating from a species that believes it is the pinnacle of evolution but we don’t care about trying to prevent these things so I should stop wasting my energy by being offended.
In fact, the next time I see a kid’s birthday party in the park, I’ll race over and tear down the signs before someone who would be offended by them stumbles upon the party.
And that Christmas tree that is raised in Rockefeller Plaza in NYC every year?
Let’s burn down the next one before an atheist becomes totally offended by it.
Come to think of it, why don’t we set up an Anti-Offense League (we’ll name it the Pro-Love League because it sounds less offensive) and roam the streets, cleansing everything that offends everyone.
We’ll be heroes – the champions of the easily-offended and the overly-sensitive! When we are done, the members of the League can then turn on each other and then our jobs will be complete.
And in the years to come, when we have crippled society with a generation that is overly sensitive, excessively easy to offend and can have their entire day disrupted because someone smiled and said “good morning”, we will have achieved the perfect society.
A society afraid to do anything.
Meanwhile, we will continue to use words and phrases like terrorist, WMD, threat, attack and other such things. It seems to be what we focus on anyway, so why not?
Now … in fairness and in the spirit of open-mindedness, I will finish this blog using words that are guaranteed to not offend anyone.
Let ‘s see … it looks like this ……