Date: Wed, 19 Oct 1994 13:12:25 -0700

From: Birrell Walsh birrell[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]WELL.SF.CA.US

Subject: Re: offending idioms

On Wed, 19 Oct 1994, David Muschell wrote:

... I, who am French, Indian, German, Swedish,

Scotch-Irish, may grin at the latest excess in lingualaundering, but I

certainly understand the "why" of it.

CJ, the plaque should have been removed, just as offensive graffiti

is washed from the walls, not because the original intent may have seemed

harmless to the "insiders" who knew its story, but because we really do

need to be wary of the inadvertant hurt caused by terms that are (how do I

underline in e-mail?) racist and carry the weight of years.

So, I'm preaching and you're offended...the neat thing about these

billboards on the superhighway is that, unlike plaques hung on distant

dams, you can delete this with one keystroke.


David -

This is the best defence of the PC mindset I have seen in a long time.

You are moderate, kind and reasoned. Well done.

On the other hand (Knew that was coming, eh?), we have the odd situation

that people who ARE NOT MEMBERS of a group decide they will defend the

group, whether asked or not. Dangerous, not unlike Boy Scouts dragging

unconsenting old ladies accross intersections.

One curious and really pernicious result is that people with cruel hearts

and tongues, who relish hurting with epithets, are getting to occupy the

defender-of-freedom role.

Another odd thing is the almost certain backfire. Rules are created by

which it is unacceptable to say something bad about any group. Intended

to protect minorities from harm, these rules nevertheless have a

universal applicability. They can therefore, in the humorless arena of

the courts, be used to stifle criticism of the majority. And they will.

There are other - maybe the word should be something neutral - "reactive

byproducts" to enforced goodness. But the country's experiment with

Prohibition still stands as an archetype, and a warning.

Where would the Mafia be today, without the Women's Christian Termperance