Monday, October 31, 2016

The Worst PC Name Yet

I am not a fan of politically correct terminology, as I have stated a few times*. First, because it basically changes nothing, people still think "black", they just do a last minute translation to "African-American" (or whatever the term of the moment might be). If you doubt me, explain people saying things like "British African-Americans", or "Native Americans born in other countries", both terms that torture logic quite badly. Secondly, because the terms continually change. And for obvious reasons, once a term enters general use, say "gay", those who tend to use such terms in derogatory ways will pick up the new term, forcing the word police to find yet another term, say "queer", which will, in its turn, also become an insult, and so on and so on. Finally, because such terms often become less precise, and less useful as they become more PC. "First nations" or "native American" tells me less than "Eskimo" or "Indian", and certainly less than "Cherokee" or "Lakota". But, because PC terms tend to be overly broad, they also tend to carry less information and white wash (no pun intended) any differences, to create the necessary big blocks of minorities**.

However, for all my dislike of politically correct terminology, I am generally willing to go along, at least to a degree. I admit I tend to use "black", mainly because I cannot recall what the current term is (and having grown up thinking "colored person" was rude, "person of color" sounds funny to me). I also worked with the mentally retarded when that was the clinical term, so I cannot remember to call them anything else. (What is the current term for the condition, anyway?) But in many other cases, I will go along with whatever the current fashion is in nomenclature, though I likely am a revision or two behind the cutting edge of PC terminology.

But there is one PC term I simply cannot use, and I cannot because it simply sounds rude to me. OK, "people of color" sounded a little too much like "colored people" for me to use, but this one is a hundred times worse.

What is this offensive PC term?

"Little people".

If I were a dwarf or midget, I would want be called "dwarf" or "midget", I would want to be called "shorty" or "dinky" or even "half pint" or "squirt" before I would let anyone call me a "little person". Have you ever heard a more condescending, twee name? "Little people"? What are they, leprechauns? Fairies? "Little people"? It is the most offensive term I could imagine to call someone. It is as if someone told me black people were now to be called "nappy heads" or Jews were properly called "hook noses", or fat people "lard asses". I cannot imagine what demented mind decided that "midget" is a term too rude for public use, yet "little people" was a term showing respect. It is absurd.

Worse still, of all the PC terminology, with its tendency to change on a monthly basis, this term seems to be the one that persists. For decades I have been hearing this term bandied about, by people who think using it is the height of enlightenment. And I cringe every time I hear it.

I know we have become used to viewing all PC terminology as nonsensical, and dismissing it all as sterile, pointless word play, but for a moment, ignore that, accept the PC mindset, and then answer this: Even if you accept the idea that we should change the language to remove any term that might offend, and replace them with terms preserving the dignity of everyone***, would you possibly imagine that the term "little people" could ever be seen as even acceptable, much less the term of choice?

I cannot understand it at all.

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* See "Badly Chosen PC Words", "Slurs", "Very Funny, If a Bit Pathetic", "The Trouble With Tough Talk" and "The Power of Words".

** Politically motivate changes to language almost always result in phrasing that is less precise, uglier and horribly awkward. For example, because "gender neutral" language became the cause du jour, the word "actress" disappeared. Unfortunately, acting is one of those areas where sex is actually a relevant characteristic, so now we need to advertise for the awkwardly phrased "female actor", rather than the simple "actress", in order to somehow avoid offending.. I'm not sure exactly who is offended by recognizing that females are females, but apparently someone is. (Cf "A Question About Language")

*** I have no problem with trying to use terms which are not offensive and insulting, the problem is that (1) there are people who are terribly sensitive [and emphasizing their sensitivity tends to exacerbate this] making it impossible to avoid all offense, (2) which means PC terms need to change pretty often, not to mention that (3) as I said before, whatever term you pick will be repurposed into an insults so (4) there is simply no way to create acceptance and tolerance by language manipulation alone. In the end, PC verbal games end up frustrating many, distracting us from real problems and making any sort of struggle for equality seem silly by association, and thus I cannot endorse it. I might agree in general with the overall goals (in a very broad sense), but the means are simply either futile or absurd or both.

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POSTSCRIPT

What is even more interesting to me is a realization I had as soon as I finished writing. Doubtless there are some out there who DO find "little people" less insulting, and would find my position offensive. But that just makes my point in a different way. If what is and is not insulting can vary so widely form person to person, is it not futile to try to come up with one "correct" set of verbiage? Won't some be well served and others forced to use terms they find offensive or uncomfortable? Is it not better to simply let things sort themselves out?

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