Tag: language taboo

Language control through perceived offense: how far can p.c. go?

As with any religion, the p.c. folks make it up as they go along. Self-appointed experts decide that yet another word - in this case, a word in a different language, may cause offense, and the cancer of political correctness advances, one word at a time.

As with any religion, the p.c. folks make it up as they go along. Self-appointed experts decide that yet another word – in this case, a word in a different language! – is a “trigger.” The cancer of political correctness advances, one word at a time.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

— George Orwell

In these times of language abuse and language control – when a Supreme Court nominee cannot define “woman” (because she is so politically compromised) – I must once again note that manufactured offense knows no limits.  There is no end to it, even though it crosses the bounds of commonsense and reason.

“The Biden Administration…”– evading responsibility through impersonal language.

"Pyramid of obedience": a better metaphor than "chain of command"

Bad decisions flow downward and outward in the organizational pyramid, spreading bad ideas through obedience and the suppression of cognitive dissonance.

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

― George Orwell

Governments and organizations of every kind evade personal responsibility by making the organization the subject of an active sentence, as if it moved of its own will.  Granted, it’s sometimes a useful shorthand: Procter and Gamble has introduced…, in which case the company as a whole pulled it off, presumably in adherence to an agreed-upon business strategy; we don’t really have to know just whose idea the product was.

Can’t  handle homonyms: the difference between a  virus and a beer

Homonyms are words that sound alike but have different meanings.

Being inoffensive and being offended are now the twin addictions of our society.

Martin Amis

Corona beer? Coronavirus?  What do they have to do with each other?  Absolutely nothing.  They’re homonyms – multiple meanings for the same sequence of sounds.  The English language is full of them, but only a few cause trouble, by which I mean they become infected with a “political virus.”

I would not want to attend the panicky meetings going on inside the walls of the marketers of Corona®  beer. The bugaboo of the current news cycle is the supposed connection between the worrisome coronavirus and the beer of the same name.

The weaponization of language

Our society is divided by many conflicting forces, but two of them are in our face almost all the time, roiling America like the whirling blades of the old MixMaster – and causing just as much confusion.

Both are related to the field in which I was trained – linguistics. Both center on language – not surprising, since language is a multi-purpose tool without which we would not be human.

I think of them as two mega-issues, each with a constellation of sub- and intersecting issues.

  1. 1. Hate speech and fighting words