Saturday, September 20, 2008

Orwell or a Sociologist: Who Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

Moving right along, we have this article in The Telegraph, which informs us of a list of words and phrases that the British Sociological Association would like to see banned by universities and publishers. Frankly, after reading some of the "objectionable" words and phrases, the only thing I'd like to see banned by universities and publishers is sociologists...

First up, "Old Masters" (which, as the article points out, "has been used for centuries to refer to great painters - almost all of whom were in fact male") is to be replaced with "classic artists." This is clearly over-compensatory (and extremely vague). My recommendation: if the artist was a woman, then she's an "Old Mistress." There's nothing ambiguous about that!

The sociologists would also like to ban the word "brainstorm" because it may be offensive to epileptics. I'd be quite happy to concede this one; not because I find it offensive to epileptics, but because I find the whole notion of "brainstorming" to be stupid and a waste of time. "Shitstorm" would be a more appropriate descriptor.

Now two of my favorites: "seminal" and "disseminate" are to be avoided "because they are derived from the word semen and supposedly imply a male-dominated view of the world." Well, what are we to do here? Clearly if we replace these with "oval" (or "ovular") and "ovulate" confusion will reign: "Layla, long considered one of Clapton's ovular works..."; "We need this information ovulated right away..." Whatever.

Sometimes, folks, the words we have are perfectly descriptive. If someone wants to be stupid enough to describe a woman's work as "seminal" well, there's no accounting for idiots. What the fuck is the point of attending a university if it isn't to learn simple things like this, anyway? A well-read, well-educated person has no problem making these distinctions, and has no problem modulating his (or her) speech and/or writing to suit the context. What I see happening is a sort of laziness on the part of educators. Ban this, ban that. Then I don't have to worry about it. Hail, NewSpeak!

Here's one more: "Able-bodied person" should be replaced with "non-disabled person." If the British Sociological Association is serious about this, then they're a bunch of fucking retards...


  1. One English Council has banned the use of the verb 'to man' as in 'the telephones are manned 24 hours' etc.
    Worse and worse.

  2. Merkin,
    Thanks for the comment. I might argue, though, that the verb "to man" is, in fact, a bit dated. (I hasten to say, however, that I impute no evil intent on the part of anyone employing said verb).

    The point I was trying to make is this (using your example): if the operators are all men, the the telephones are manned 24 hours a day; if they're not, then "our phone lines are open 24 hours a day"; "our operators are here 24 hours a day"; etc.

    The English language is simply too rich to be reduced to a handful of potentially offensive phrases. The alternatives offered by the language police are usually more offensive than the "originals." The whole point of a university education (contrary to many) is to learn how to express yourself clearly and concisely, in any context.

    I've studied French, German, Greek, Latin, and now Japanese (and failed miserably). I'm still learning English, my mother tongue (oops!).

  3. Yep, I'm all for banning sociologists, oxygen thieves the lot of them.

  4. "Political Correctness is a way of seizing the moral high ground without having to do any of the work"

    - Robert Hughes

  5. AV,
    I think sociology might become useful for describing. I don't think they should be allowed to prescribe anything.

    That sums up my argument quite nicely!

  6. Coming back to this - it would do them well to research the actual root meanings of all those words - and then they'd find out how horribly wrong they are.

  7. AV,
    That would involve opening a book...

  8. I thought the Pantload was the only one who worried about ovular as a replacement for seminal. Well, actually, seminar in his case.

    I'm with you on this one, in general. I can understand a few complaints of built-in sexism and racism. I'm happy to say firefighter, police officer, and letter carrier instead of fireman, policeman, and mailman. I'm willing to limit utterances of Dutch treat and gypped. I'll even bow to the ignorance of the masses and use only with great discretion niggardly.

    But really. Brainstorming?

    That's a great word! (If you don't have to hang around suits, admittedly.)

    You know what we need to do with these language dictators? Kill them with their own medicine. Let's send Bill.

  9. Auntie Analogue8/08/2011 12:17:00 PM

    Are these preachy, prescriptive individuals sociologists or are they ideologues? I refuse to even dip my spoon into the vile pudding which they brew up and show themselves determined to put into my mouth. I am, and I never shall be, any finger-wagging Puritopians' speech dhimmi.

    "Seminal" I'll stick with in all instances, because the Latin "semen" means primarily horticultural seed planted in earth: once planted and germinated - germinated not fertilized, it is the seed which grows, not the soil that surrounds it.