PC on the PC
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
Your mouse is wandering aimlessly!

Observations on Language (Mostly)
by Martin Green.


Before getting to our main subject I have to say something about this LLA (Life’s Little Annoyance). “Observations” readers know that I consider today’s airplane/airport experience to be on a par with the bubonic plague. Nevertheless, taking a plane somewhere is sometimes necessary. This was the case when we were invited to visit Beverly’s brother Lawrence and his wife Carol, who live in Edmonds, Washington, near Seattle. We checked out flights coming and going and then called the airline as we’d accumulated a lot of air miles using our credit cards and wanted to use them. First, getting through to an airline person required a wait of over an hour, during which time we had our phone on speaker. I’d almost forgotten the call when suddenly a voice came over the speaker. I rushed to the phone before the airline person could hang up. Refraining from asking if she was the only human being still being employed by the airline, I asked about using our air miles.

The airline person, a woman, was very nice. First, she informed us that for our less than two-hour flights we needed 50,000 miles each. Ouch! She checked the miles we had (less than 50,000 each), then the dates we wanted to fly, then alternate dates, but found no flights for which we could use our miles. So it’s true, you can rack up frequent flier miles but don’t expect to be able to use them. Just another reminder of our friendly skies, like cramped seats, late flights, fees for luggage, pillows, blankets, peanuts and using the rest rooms (this last is bound to come). At least our legislators have responded to the outcry against the phony air controller cuts and have found a way to keep them on the job. Guess the outcry made them afraid they wouldn’t get re-elected, or maybe their own air travel plans were being disrupted.

Okay, with that out of the way, on to a subject that, as a writer, has always interested me, the use of words and language. You may have noticed that in reporting about any crime our illustrious media just about always has to insert the word “alleged,” as in the “alleged murder” or the “alleged murderer.” Now I understand that under our judicial system a person is presumed innocent unless found guilty. Nothing wrong with that. But what about a murder that was on video and to which someone has confessed. Do we still have to say “alleged”? Evidently we do because that’s what’s done. I think what brought this to mind was the recent Boston Marathon bombings when I heard them referred to as “alleged” although I saw them on television and when the bombers were referred to as “alleged” when one was killed and the other one wounded and has since said he and his brother did it.

I think that the use of “alleged” is just one instance of something that’s affected our language for some time and that is PC, political correctness. We must be careful not to label a person as a killer, even when he’s confessed, lest we somehow infringe on his civil rights. Incidentally, to go back to the Boston Marathon bombings for a moment, I know that your first thought when the younger brother was captured and not killed was, “Gee, I hope his civil rights are not violated.” It wasn’t your first thought? Well, in any case, there was no need to worry as some judge interrupted his interrogation to read him his Miranda rights and, surprise, surprise, he immediately clammed up.

Uh oh, I see from re-reading the previous paragraph that I’ve broken the PC rule about gender by writing “even when he’s confessed, lest we somehow infringe on his civil rights.” The PC way is to write “even when he or she’s confessed, lest we infringe on his or her civil rights.” Otherwise, we’re implying that a female is less capable of being a confessed killer than a male and that of course would be denigrating women, something we certainly don’t want to do. By the way, it used to be understood that the word “man” meant man or woman and the word “his” meant his or her, so that writers, myself included, didn’t have to resort to such clumsy usage as man or woman, he or she and him and her.

This brings us to another item that recently caught my interest: the state of Washington has passed a gender-neutral language law. Any word that might possibly be considered to have a gender bias is to be eliminated. Examples are: “fireman” is replaced by “firefighter,” ombudsman” becomes “ombud,” “journeyman” becomes “journey level, “freshman” is “first year,” and “policeman” is shortened to “police.” The article I read quotes a “senior adviser” to the National Women’s Law Center as saying “This is important in changing hearts and minds,” although about what and how the change is effected is not clear.

What seems clear is that our language is being further confused in the cause of PC and that any use of “man” is now evidently illegal. So I suppose that in Washington you can’t say “Man, oh man,” anymore. And what about “manhole cover,” “penmanship,” “Man the lifeboats,” and “Superman,” not to mention ”mandate,” “manifest,” “manage” and so on and on? Well, I guess the only surprising thing about this is that our state of California hasn’t thought of such a law yet. As mentioned above, we are going to the state of Washington later this year. When there I’ll have to remember not to refer to our cat by his full name, Shandyman, but abbreviate it to Shandy. Otherwise, I guess the Washington PC police will come and get me.

Faithful “Observations” readers know that I usually steer clear of controversies so if this column has offended anyone of any gender, I’ll just say that I “allegedly” wrote this “alleged” column. That should manage to get me off the hook. Manage? Can’t win.


Read old page 94s here.


© Winamop 2013