Saturday, July 10, 2004

Political Correctness

Go here for Michael Gilleland's fine essay, "On the Abolition of Certain Words." I am always astonished at liberals who either deny the existence of PC or else downplay its perniciousness. If people can take offense at 'niggardly,' what's to stop them from taking umbrage at 'denigrate' and cognates? Or 'whitewash' for that matter? There is seemingly no end to this lunacy of the Left. A while back a Left Coast loon thought that 'Schwarzenegger' is racist because it translates as 'Black Nigger.' Nonsense. First, the German word for negro is Neger, not Negger. Second, 'Schwarzenegger' is to be parsed as Schwarzen-egger not as Schwarze-negger. Egger, as Dr. H. J. Hodges informs me, is an early form of Acker, whence the English acre. So if you must translate Arnold's surname, it would be something like Blackacre.

Of course, presenting a rational argument against a PC-head is like trying to rationally persuade a pathology to subside. What the PC-head really needs is therapy rather than refutation. If we can't get them into therapy, we can at least oppose them. And oppose them we must if we value clear thinking and common sense.

One of the tactics of PC-heads is use of false etymologies. A bonehead in a local rag urged that 'handicapped' be avoided on the ground that it hearkens back to beggars who went about cap in hand. Nonsense. The expression derives from hand in cap, not cap in hand. Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, p.330:

Handicap. A word first used in horse racing (1754) and then in golf (since the 1870s), handicap may derive from and old English game called 'hand in cap,' which was a drawing before a horse race. According to this theory, 'hand in cap' was shortened to handicap in speech and came to mean an attempt to predict the winner of a horse race or other contest by comparing the past performances of all the contestants.

Don't get me wrong: I am strongly opposed to the denigration of cripples. And I have nothing against the handicapped. I've got a handicap myself: I hear out of only one ear. This monaurality is a disability, not a special ability. (I once had a girl friend who thought I was 'lucky' because I could put my good ear down on a pillow and block most sounds.) To be disabled is not to be 'differently abled.' People who speak in this idiotic way are people who are willing to forsake contact with reality into order to pander to fools who are 'sensitive' about things they have no right to be sensitive about. An absence is not a special sort of presence. If I met nobody while hiking, it does not follow that I met somebody named Nobody. If I belong to no political party, it does not follow that I belong to the No-party party.

And then there is 'squaw' about which Gilleland comments with erudition. Apparently, the supposed offensiveness of this term is also based on false etymology. In these parts there is a landmark known as Squaw Peak, which, I understand, was recently renamed in acquiescence to PC-pressure. But I will continue to call it Squaw Peak. A squaw is an American Indian woman. No more, no less. If you take offense, that's your problem.

For a somewhat different take on these matters, go here. Link courtesy of John Gallagher.