Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Watch What You Say

Political Correctness in Britain has gone too far.

The other day my 85 year old grandfather asked me to go to the ‘Chinkie’ to get a Chinese take-away. I gasped, “Grandpa,” I said, “you’re not supposed to say that word.”

He looked at me, bemused. “It's not an insult, Princesse. I’m too old for this political correctness rubbish.”

Today I have no idea what I am supposed to say and what I am not. I’m terrified that I will say a word that is now ‘frowned upon’; I’m scared I will inadvertently offend someone. We are all a nation of confused plebeians, walking on eggshells in fear of uttering the wrong word and appearing racist / sexist / ignorant / discriminatory.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are words that should not be used because of the offence it causes. I fully understand words being banned which are genuinely offensive – such as the N word. But I’m pretty sure many of the words being scored out of our vocabulary today are not because minorities have complained, I suspect it is down to the government now, and over-sensitive British people.

Last term, my mother, a primary school teacher, was told at a monthly meeting that one must never use the word ‘blackboard’ anymore. Now it must always be referred to as a ‘chalkboard’.

Now what is offensive about a blackboard?! A chalkboard is black. It is the colour of the board. It is in no way referring to skin colour or whatever the hell they are claiming.

And why is it politically incorrect to describe a person of certain origin when it’s seemingly ok to call the Scots ‘Jock’, the English ‘Poms’, the Irish ‘simple’, the Americans ‘Yankees’ and the French ‘frogs’?

The British government needs to choose between two opposing laws; what do we want; freedom of speech or the right not to be discriminated against?

Read something a little less serious and a little more Princesse Ecossaise-like here; Farty Princesse


T.D. Newton said...

I wonder if it is better or worse in Britain than it is in America.

I mean, people are actually bringing up during our Presidential debates whether the government should pay reparations for Slavery. They don't seem to understand the logistics involved in "paying" for something that ended 150 years ago. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but GET OVER IT ALREADY.

I liked Barack Obama's answer to whether he advocated reparations. He said we should invest money in our schools and that will be our reparations. Frankly, I can imagine that having better educated children would be more valuable than getting a handout (which is all reparations would be). Then again, I'm not black.

There are so many things that our PC world have slapped us across the face with. One of them is "African-American." This term has been obsolete for over 100 years since, technically, people born in American are just "American." Do you have "African-British" or "African-French" people? I actually do want to hear the answer to that --- I'll use it in my next argument.

Some days are just good for serious discussion, Princesse. Way to go.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

I think PC verbiage is out of control is well. If the word is not said with the intent to harm, then it should not be taken as offensive. Words are just words until we silly people give them so much power. The power should be in how we say things and the thoughts behind the words.

My previous employer told us we should not use the term "flip charts" for the charts of paper that we used for training classes, the kind where you flip one page over the back, because "flip" is a derogatory term for some group of people. So, I guess doing a back-flip would be offensive as well? Flip doesn't have one specific meaning, and really, usually refers the act of flipping something rather than some group of people.

It's all ridiculous. Your grandpa's right.

sugar007 said...

T.D Newton, I find 'Get Over it already' a tard bit offensive. I personally don't believe in reparation as where do you start and it is a pointless gesture. Just treat people fairly and equally that is what is needed. Would you tell those families of victims of concentration camps who demanded an apology to 'Get over it, already'. It is way too painful a history for some of people to have someone say 'Get over it already'. Please think really carefully before you trivialise something that like it.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Ah shit...sorry guys didn't mean to cause conflict on this.

I can't really get into the argument on reparations because I don't really know much about it - in fact I'd never heard about it before TD mentioned it.

I feel really bad now, I don't think I should have started this, I hope I've not offended anyone. But I think (I hope) we would all agree that 'blackboard' is inoffensive and totally over the top.

WooWoo that seems just as ridiculous to me! I don't even know what group your employer was referring to...never heard of this word being derogatory.

T.D. Newton said...

Princesse, this is actually quite healthy, so don't feel bad. We're adults and we can talk about this kind of stuff.

Sugar, I am very glad you brought up a similar situation to compare against. I don't live in Germany so I'm not in a position to say whether or not this is true but I am assuming (I hope, anyway) that today's German Jews (descendants or not) are not demanding reparations for the Holocaust. Reparations is money, not just an apology, though both would be empty coming from people who did not directly perpetrate the offense.

I can understand why you'd be offended at me saying to "get over it" but frankly it offends me that after so much time has passed people still treat Slavery as an issue with so much priority. Just as with every war, rebellion, invasion, or other human interaction where scores of people die, life goes on and we have to look forward instead of treating it like it happened yesterday. I really only used "get over it already" because it is the exact opposite of the politically correct response that is normally employed. The pendulum has got to swing the other way to get peoples' attention.

sugar007 said...

Don't worry Princesse, you have not caused any conflict. I have to say banning 'blackboard' is just ridiculous. Silliness like that gets clumped in with more important and 'real' issues in the world.

T.D. Newton said...

BTW, in response to your Grandpa and Woo-Woo, I think we are experiencing a period of "pendulum swing" with political correctness. Pendulum Swing is a concept I've come to believe in with regard to human nature; it represents the tide of public opinion.

This is the same situation that I was talking about around December when people began protesting that they were being forced to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so as not to offend anyone. I remember ten years ago it was almost a jail-worthy offense to say Merry Christmas (I'm exaggerating) because it was the explosion of political correctness. Now, though, the pendulum is beginning to swing back the other direction.

I suspect you'll begin to see the same reversal of momentum in other areas as well (like "blackboard" and "flipcharts") simply because people are realizing it is being taken to a ridiculous extreme.

Princesse, I hope you don't mind me using your blog as a soapbox. LOL You are welcome to delete my comments if you don't want them here :)

sugar007 said...

TD - What I wished people would understand that when something so painful like that happens, it doesn't matter whether it happened two days ago or 100 years ago, the effects are still prevalent in today's society. History is what makes us who we are and what we become. Where society is at this current time is based on what has gone on in the past. This issue of reparation is complicated because money is involved. Like I have said before I don't think money is the answer.
And I know when some of the families and victims of the holocaust asked for an apology, some said it was pointless because it was not them that committed the atrocities. The fact that they ask for it means the pain and the memories has not gone away with time. Although the time frame of the holocaust and slavery is very wide apart, it does not take away the fact that there are people that are still affected by it and its' implications today.
Think about it when a minority right or wrongly feels that they are being treated unfairly because of who they are, that is not a feeling that just dropped out of the sky. That is a feeling that is rooted in history. It does not go away. It should but it doesn't.

T.D. Newton said...

Sugar- I'm not sure if we should take this discussion elsewhere or not as it's probably just going to go on and on.

I can understand that the immediately affected people of a tragedy would feel like they deserve something (an apology, what have you). That, I do get. That, I can sympathize with. That, I can truly understand and somewhat relate to. They want someone, regardless of who, to take responsibility for it. What I don't understand is reparations.

And, to a certain extent I agree that "time heals all wounds" is BS. But along with that, aren't you in for a severely sad existence if you only focus on the past?

Ghosty said...

Gee, a whole lottsa serious debate happening on Princess' blog!

I have to say that I'm with the non-PC people on this one. Sure, I try not to offend people on purpose, that's just crass and rude. That said, I also realize that no matter what I say or do someone, somewhere will be offended.

Your grandfather is a wise man. Say what you want and never mind what other people have to say about it. Why worry if someone else if going to be offended? If they are, apologize and carry on, that's all. No need to stifle yourself on other people's account unnecessarily.

Colin said...

Hi Princesse,
Wow, what a can of worms has opened here lol.
I do think that the PC brigade have gone OTT yet again, but this also harkens back to several years ago when you couldn't order a black coffee, a non-white coffee was fine!! How pathetic does it get? I have lived abroad in different communities, I have also worked with those from what we call ethnic minorities and never had a problem with PC.....I guess that we are now in the dictatorship of Brown & Co we can look forward to more stupidity.
The sad part is that it's all very one sided....it's ok to call you a white honky but you must not call them black etc etc.

I am not bothered by anyones race, religion, background etc and consider myself to be unbiased. I served in N.Ireland many years ago and I have Irish relatives that live their, and no, I'm not Irish...I have dual citizenship of Malta/Great Britain.

As for reparation of the past, many things were carried out in all countries, and I would never consider saying to anyone 'get over it' but by the same token we cannot continue apologising for events that we had no control over.

To sum up...a blackboard is just that...a BLACK board, and OMG I'm using BLACK text too. Wow...will I get the PC brigade after me for that too lol

ColbyPants said...

Without going into this too in depth, there is a big difeerence between calling someone of Asian decent a "Chink"(which most of my Asian friends would consider fighting words, and originated during the Korean Conflict as a way for troops to dehumanise the people they were killing much like the "N-word was used in American slavery.) and describing a blackboard by using said term (which like you said is just a description, well except for when the chalkboard is green :-P). Words that were originally meant to belitte people (the "n - word" fpr example, or even referring to French as frogs, which my French grandfather takes tremendous offense to, for example) should be consciously worked out of our language, by the people themselves, if only because the words are useless and do not add anyuthing to the language but hate. That said I beleive in free speach (even if you use that right to be a douchebag) and this is by no means a govermental issue.

So my argument is simple, its not PC its language semantics. Whether a word is said with malice or not, why not just use the proper word for it, and sound educated instead of ignorant.

I am sorry but if you are ignorant to the effect of a word is not a liscence to use it. That said like before, the censoring of words like blackboards and flip charts are just dumb, and any intelligent person would see that.


Daddy Papersurfer said...

I better stop calling you the Haggis Queen then.
What about Scottish Royalty avec une twist?

Hornet's nest or what!

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. I really do wish I had said nothing.

Listen, the only point I was making is that I'm so confused these days over what I am allowed to say and what I'm not. Even with the 'proper' names for things sometimes it's taken as offensive now.

'Spastic' was a proper medical term. Now it's terribly derogatory. 'Handicapped' seems to have been replaced by 'disabled' and frowned upon by the p-c folks if uttered even innocently. I want to move away from race in this conversation, because it's any group of people I'm talking about, not simply diferent races.

And no wonder most of us are confused. Because half of you are offended and the other half of you are not.

Now, if someone called a black person a 'blackboard' as some sort of (really lame) insult I can see that that is offensive and not right.

But children are innocently asking teachers if they can write on the 'blackboard' and teachers are shouting back at them saying never to say these words again. The future generatons are going to be even more confused than I am.

Additionally, I am a girl who has been called a jock, a ditzy blonde, a bimbo, a 'white eejit/bitch' and have been told to do 'woman's work' in the kitchen...

All of it has been used for a laugh, for the crack, and because none of it has been full of malice, I'm not offended.

ColbyPants said...

All of this discussion is fascinating. Why do you feel bad you said something? I sure don't.


Princesse Ecossaise said...

Because I'm a sillypuss and I worry too much about insulting people!!

T.D. Newton said...

Ah, but that's the beauty of optional viewership. If people didn't want to read, they wouldn't.

I'm sorry I went to the race issue and started a big fire, though. I feel bad that I seriously derailed the conversation.

I never got an answer to my question, though. Do you call non-immigrant African-descent people "African-French" or, if they were actually born in France, are they just "French?"

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Well, for one the French are so un-politically correct, I mean totally and utterly un-pc. To the French a black person is simply 'un noir' 'a black' and apparently in France there is nothing wrong with that.

Now I'm just speculating here, but it seems to me that a lot of France's people are still rather racist. Just look at Jean-Marie LePen! It just goes to show that a small part of France agree with him seeing as he got enough votes to be in the first voting.

There are many many many many mannnny people with African decent in France, and they are first, second or third generation French after their parents or parents' parents have left old colonies of France. But, as far as I am aware, in France people of African decent are still referred to as African, not French.

But, it just occured to me this happens in Scotland too, one of my best friends is of Indian decent - well her parents are Indian and they moved here then she was born. Most people would describe her as Indian, not Scottish. But she's Scottish. I asked her about this before, and she replied that she feels she belongs to both cultures and welcomes being 'tagged' with both Scottish and Indian. I think that's nice.

ColbyPants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ColbyPants said...

I was gonna say TD, some french folk, and there are exceptions, are quite inclined to be "Nationalist". (Which is putting it very politely, and I mean it not to be disparaging, I speak from experience, like members of my family, for example, my Mother was never accepted into my family because she was of Irish decent, and my father should have "Married a nice French Girl").

ColbyPants said...

that LePen dude is a friggin' tool.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

LePen scares me, he's just so...brutal in his opinions. 'A True Frenchman', they call him. Well no Frenchmen I know are like that.

T.D. Newton said...

Okay, that was yet another strange tangent. Maybe French was a bad choice.

The point I'm trying to make is that your "nationality" and your "heritage" are two different things. Your nationality is where you are a citizen of (more likely where you were born) whereas your heritage is where your ancestors were born. The phrase "African-American" mashes both of those together for a reason that was obsolete before the term was invented. I just wondered if a similar term was used internationally.

ColbyPants said...

I understand what you are saying, and it make sense. We are all Americans. that said I have to say that I take pride in referring to myself as Irish-American. . . . hmmmm

ColbyPants said...

OFF topic:

Hey pricncesse, when you get a chance go to my blog and scroll all the way to the very bottom of my page!


T.D. Newton said...

But is your reference to "Irish-" one of heritage or culture?

My ancestors as close as my mother's parents (I believe) emigrated to America from Spain but I wouldn't call myself a Spanish-American. I would say my heritage is Spanish, but I have very little understanding of the culture from which my mother's side of the family comes.

This is an interesting topic of discussion. I will have to bring this up to my roommate who's majoring in anthropology.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Oh Thomas Thomas Thomas ... You RAWK!!!! Thankyouuuuuuu!

Princesse Ecossaise said...

I think its probably to do with culture TD, and the way one is brought up. My heritage is Irish - good lord, I just asked my dad when our clan came to Scotland and it turns out his grandad so my great grandad came from Dublin...

Well there you go, my family is only recently Scottish and I don't really feel Irish atall. Then again, the Scottish and Irish culture is very similar...

fracas said...

I know what you mean Princesse. Soon, we won't be able to talk about how we just can't find the perfect "Little Black Dress" anymore.

We'll have to say how we're looking for that perfect "Little combination-of-all-other-colors-that-looks-very-unlike-a-light-color Dress".

I may have to just buy something purple.

Lord Likely said...

Well, as my grandfather used to say, "I call a spade a spade".

Except now he cannot call it a spade, for fear of upsetting some parts of the community, so has to refer to it as a 'Metal Hole Digging Apparatus'.

Not nearly as catchy.