A dictionary reports equivalencies. A “racial equity glossary” dictates them.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
From Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There” (1871)
Recently, OpporrtunityNow, a San Jose-based website/resource for entrepreneurs, invited me to comment on the City of San Jose’s Racial Equity Glossary.
Here’s what I sent them:
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 goals of International Pronoun Day and the means by which they are to be achieved are vague, but it sure is fun to invent new pronouns!
Unfortunately, this is not feasible, given the role pronouns play in sentences.
Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.
From the home page of International Pronoun Day
On the futility of International Pronoun Day full post
(737 words, 1 image, estimated 2:57 mins reading time)
Linguistics consists of many sub-disciplines, all devoted to the study of language.
“Linguistics is virtually invisible to most people…”
— Roger Shuy, Language Crimes, 1996
“Critical Race Theory” is not going away. Although the slogan is heard almost everywhere in academia and education, almost no one inquires into what it actually means in practice.
It means a lot of different things, which is a good thing for its adherents and practitioners because, they can do anything they want in the name of this impressive- sounding undertaking.
It takes courage and clear thinking to question the all-pervasive indoctrination of Critical Race Theory. But what does the phrase actually mean?
As there is now an inexorable push to make Critical Race Theory a required part of America’s educational system, pushback is required. Kudos to Andrew Gutman, the Brearly (NY) School father who stood up, in no uncertain terms, to the relentless indoctrination to which his kid had been subjected (for $50,000+/year).
As Candace Owens notes, CRT is a double poison, taking time from teaching academic skills and at the same time producing a generation of non-thinking, malleable sheep.
A free society does not ban or burn books. It does not attempt to control the language and thought of its citizens.
As we see censorship, it is a stupid giant traffic policeman answering ‘Yes’ to ‘Am I my brother’s copper?’ He guards a one-way street and his semaphore has four signs, all marked ‘STOP.’
Franklin P. Adams, Nods and Becks, 1944
The problem of freedom in America is that of maintaining a competition of ideas, and you do not achieve that by silencing one brand of idea.
Max Lerner, Actions and Passion, 1949
In the interests of political correctness Congress wastes our tax dollars scrubbing gender from its legislation. “Amen” is deemed to contain the offensive “men.” Why don’t other linguists speak out against this insanity?
Amen. < Old English, from ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek amēn, from Hebrew ‘āmēn ‘truth, certainty’, used adverbially as expression of agreement, and adopted in the Septuagint as a solemn expression of belief or affirmation.
[The version I learned in Hebrew School:] The Talmud teaches homiletically that the word amen is an acronym for אל מלך נאמן (ʾEl melekh neʾeman, “God, trustworthy King”), the phrase recited silently by an individual before reciting the Shma. (Wikipedia)
Written language contains many information signals beside letters and numbers. Here are a few.
A period is to let the writer know he has finished his thought and he should stop there if he will only take the hint. Art Linkletter, A Child’s Garden of Misinformation (1965)
To a generation of children who are trained to be sensitive to an ever-increasing body of words deemed offensive because of their perceived meanings, who are “triggered” by these words and need “safe spaces,” it is, for the P.c., just a small jump from reading new meanings into words…to reading new meanings into marks of punctuation.
Politically correctness attacks the teaching of English. Be afraid.
Be very afraid..
“The truth is what most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often.”
“[The English language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
Who dares to be the red person in a sea of blue think-alikes?
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
— Lewis Carroll
“Offending and being offended are now the twin addictions of our society.”
— Martin Amis
Homonyms are words that sound alike but have different meanings.
Being inoffensive and being offended are now the twin addictions of our society.
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.
Gender politics pervades language, and it’s getting even harder to know what’s “correct.”
Tens of thousands of years have elapsed since we shed our tails, but we are still communicating with a medium developed to meet the needs of arboreal man. . . We may smile at the linguistic illusions of primitive man, but may we forget that the verbal machinery on which we so readily rely, and which our metaphysicians still profess to probe the Nature of Existence, was set up by him, and may be responsible for other illusions hardly less gross and not more easily eradicable?
Pronouns and gender politics full post
(1188 words, 1 image, estimated 4:45 mins reading time)
Politically incorrect speech is neither red nor blue. It is red, while and blue. It is American. Repression of speech leads to repression of thought.
This is a message that the p.c. crowd — in the media, in the universities – needs to hear again and again, because they don’t get it, especially when a Presidential candidate (Warren) announces “her” pronouns on the debate stage, and a teacher is fired for not using the student’s preferred pronouns. It is not enough, the argument goes, to have pronouns of two genders, when there are so many other genders. We need more pronouns!
Stop the pronoun craziness full post
(1290 words, 1 image, estimated 5:10 mins reading time)
Linguistics is concerned with who says what to whom, and why. Why do groups of people adopt their own manner of speaking? There are many answers.
Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.
I admire John McWhorter so much for the breadth of his accomplishments, his accessibility to the media, his eloquent lectures.
I recently saw a video clip in which he pegged Trump’s speech as characteristic of primitive humans just getting their “language chops” together.
On baby talk and language change full post
(1069 words, 1 image, estimated 4:17 mins reading time)
Philip Roth produced a tremendous volume of work, on a machine like this. In “The Anatomy Lesson,” he writes of a man tortured by neck pain – possibly from all the typewriting.
“He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach – that it makes no sense.”
“You put too much stock in human intelligence, it doesn’t annihilate human nature.”
― American Pastoral
A prophet of political correctness
One of my favorite authors, Philip Roth, died recently, leaving a magnificent body of work. Unlike other personal faves, Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud, who composed mostly in the key of J (for “Jewish”; Malamud’s The Natural is an exception), Roth’s versatility was truly impressive.
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. Hate speech and fighting words
The weaponization of language full post
(1167 words, 1 image, estimated 4:40 mins reading time)