Just when you think the political correctness police can’t get anymore ridiculous, they always manage to surprise you. Consider the latest: At the University of New Hampshire, they are using what’s called a “Bias-Free Language Guide” that cautions faculty against the use of controversial words. And while that may not seem like anything to worry about, it is the selection of words themselves that are, shall we say, absurd.
“American,” according to the guide, is an offensive way to refer to someone from the United States. “North Americans often use ‘American’ which usually, depending on the contexts, fails to recognize South America,” says the guide. Instead of that, the guide recommends that professors and staff use “Resident of the U.S.” or “U.S. citizen” instead.
That would be ridiculous enough, but the guide doesn’t stop there. If you take its message to heart, here are a few of the other words you’ll need to excise from your vocabulary:
So make sure you commit this list to memory, lest you end up offending someone with your brutish language.
What’s especially funny is that some readers will undoubtedly recall an earlier occasion in which “senior citizen” was the politically correct phrase of choice. Now it’s back to the offensive list, apparently. These liberals change their minds on language more than scientists change their mind about the nutritional value of an egg. Is it healthy? It is unhealthy? Oh wait, you can’t use those terms anymore, either. Damn!
Sensing a controversy in the air, UNH President Mark Huddleston quickly distanced himself from the guide. In a statement released Wednesday, Huddleston said, “I am troubled by many things in the language guide, especially the suggestion that the use of the term ‘American’ is misplaced or offensive.”
The school says the guide was written in 2013 by “a small group of community members” and that the language rules are merely suggestions and do not constitute school policy.
The University of New Hampshire may be eager to move past this unfortunate incident, but there will come a day when these rules move into the mainstream. No politically correct phraseology is too idiotic for the public, it seems. If we can find even one person who might be offended by a word or phrase, we jump at the chance to eliminate it from polite speech.
Does it matter? Absolutely. Thought and language are inextricably intertwined. You change one, you change the other. So we must be very careful about which thoughts we’re changing when we accept one of these language substitutions. When we deem “American” offensive, are we only offering respect to our neighbors to the south? Or are we chipping away at an important part of our own identity? Who really benefits when we make the switch? Which ideas are being promoted?
These are the questions we should ask before giving in to the PC Police. And with a little digging, we can usually find out exactly why they want us to change. And then – with a clear sense of purpose – we can decide.