Saturday, January 07, 2006

What we need is a big dose of "Average Sense"

I'm reading this book on giving speeches, and it gives the politically correct way to speak in the back. One of the funnier things is that you are supposed to replace "common man" with "average person" and somehow, that seems quite humorous to me.

Here are more:

Instead of:
mankind use humanity
caveman use prehistoric people (I was thinking Chesterton's chapter would have to be called "The God in the Prehistoric Place")
man and wife use husband and wife
bachelor and spinster use single man and woman
stewardess use flight attendant
lady doctor use doctor

And it also informs us that unless a woman has given us permission to call her "Mrs." or "Miss" it would be safe and wise to call her "Ms" so as not to upset her. So says the politically correct guide to speeches.


  1. This is a grand example of the true stupidity of this linguistic decay.

    "Common" suggests something EVERYONE has - or at least most people.

    "Average" is something mathematical, and very precise, too, but it is not realistic at all, for the average may be something NO ONE has.

    Oh, you don't get it? Do you really want an example?

    OK, I'll tell you, but put down anything you're drinking so you won't make a mess.

    It may be quite common for people to have two or three children...


    The average family has 2.5 children.

    I assert that there is no such family!

    (Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth notwithstanding, hee hee.)

  2. Nancy, if you're looking for similar material in this vein, Diane Ravitch's The Language Police is a bewildering and hilarious read, though outrageous at times. Observe:

    "One of the stranger recommendations of the bias and sensitivity panel involved a true story about a heroic young blind man who hiked to the top of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. The story described the dangers of hiking up an icy mountain trail, especially for a blind person. The panel voted 12-11 to eliminate the inspiring story.

    First, the majority maintained that the story contained 'regional bias,' because it was about hiking and mountain climbing, which favors students who live in regions where those activities are common. Second, they rejected the passage because it suggested that people who are blind are somehow at a disadvantage compared to people who have normal sight, that they are 'worse off' and have a more difficult time facing dangers than those who are not blind.

    'Regional bias,' in this instance, means that children should not be expected to read or comprehend stories set in unfamiliar terrain. A story that happened in the desert would be 'biased' against children who had never lived in a desert, and a story set in a tropical climate would be biased against those who have never lived in a tropical climate. Consider the impoverishment of imagination that flows from such assumptions: No reading passage on a test may have a specific geographical setting; every event must occur in a generic locale. Under these assumptions, no child should ever be expected to understand a story set in a locale other than the one that he or she currently lives in or a locale that has no distinguishing characteristics.

    Even more peculiar is the assumption by the panel's majority that it is demeaning to applaud a blind person for overcoming daunting obstacles, like climbing a steep, icy mountain trail. It is not unreasonable, I believe, to consider blindness to be a handicap for a person in physical danger. By definition, people who are blind cannot see as much or as well as people who have sight. Is it not more difficult to cope with dangerous situations when one cannot see?

    Yet, perversely, the bias and sensitivity panel concluded that this story celebrating a blind athlete's achievements and his heroism was biased against people who are blind. Blindness, apparently, should be treated as just another personal attribute, like the color of one's hair, or one's height. In the new meaning of bias, it is considered biased to acknowledge that lack of sight is a disability."

    -Ravitch, Language Police pp. 10-11

    I hope you'll forgive me for any typographical errors; balancing the thing on one knee and typing at the same time is not easy.

  3. Furor:
    Thank you. You follow my line of thinking exactly. Not only am I familiar with Language Police (having persuaded my library to purchase a copy and then read it several times, and reviewing it for Heart and Mind magazine and recommending it to everyone I know who has anything to do with schools, testing, or education) and it is, in fact, one of the many reasons that we homeschool.

    And that is why I tend to use the more old fashioned "Mrs." first--and only use "Ms" if the woman insists, and also conciously choose to use mankind, common man, caveman, man and wife, stewardess, fireman, policeman and etc, because I feel contrary in regards to language, and I think it means more than the "language police" think it means.

    We can see by your very fine example (one of hundreds to be found in Diane Ravitch's excellent book) how silly and twisted the thinking is with these bias and sensitivity people.

    My sil wrote a geometry book, and the committee made them change the generic names from Tom, Bill, Susie and Jane to Jorge, Alanzo, Orphina and Hakim to reflect a more "diverse" math student. Never mind that Tom, Bill, Susie and Jane are blanket names for anychild. Anychild apparently assumes something about race. To me, using these other names assumes something, too, but no one ever wants to talk about reverse discrimination.

  4. In journalism school, our grammar textbook told us to use plural pronouns instead of "he" or "him" or other "gender biased" pronouns, despite the mind-numbing violation of agreement rules.

    I'm proud to say I sacrificed high grades on papers for the sake of good grammar.

  5. Wow, I COMPLETELY forgot about the example of this Chesterton himself records:

    As Miss Barlow rattled away cheerfully, [the editor] crumpled up the copy and tossed it into the waste-paper basket; but not before he had, automatically and by mere force of habit, altered the word "God" to the word "circumstances."

    [GKC, the conclusion of "The Purple Wig" in The Wisdom of Father Brown]

    (Looks like that the editor went to the same journalism school.)

  6. Nancy:

    I should have known that you'd be familiar with it already. You are, as they say, on the ball.

    The ball is the planet Earth; too many people these days are on Pluto, and blandly appealing to the notion that all planets are really the same, or are all just one planet, or aren't actually planets, etc. etc. I can understand why one might feel this way when marooned upon a world so utterly alien, lifeless, and inhospitable as Pluto, but that's no excuse for having transported oneself there in the first place.

    I don't know where this came from. I have enjoyed my Hoegaarden greatly this night.


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