Over the last few years we have observed the increasing pressure upon people to modify their modes of speech. – at least within the English-speaking world’s middle classes. The lower and upper classes go about their linguistic business without bothering to be bothered – but those of us in the middle are being herded assiduously each day.
Some of us think it a con. Conjoined, confused, contradicted, and contrailed ( Actually that should be chemtrailed…), we are told that our words must be gender-neutral, non-sexist, non-racial, and inoffensive. The groups who are said to be offended by our utterances grow daily, and we risk social calumny if we do not say the right words. We are being led or goaded to NewSpeak. If we do not comply, and do not comply fast enough, we may find that we are sent for re-education…
To avoid this the BGA would like to offer a small guide to the perplexed – your NewSpeak 101, if you will. Remember that if you are not part of the problem, we can change the problem. And if you are not part of the solution, we can have you dissolved…
A. Gender-neutral words.
This only works in English. The French and Germans laugh at you. The Italians make secret signs at you after you turn your back.
Never refer to anything as a he or a she. Or an it, for that matter. Try to avoid referring to anything at all. Interpretive dance works best for most occasions.
If a job can be done by a man or a woman, you must never acknowledge the fact that one or the other of the workers is one or the other of the sexes whilst doing it. Some jobs stop this by their very nature; Pole Danceress never appears in the Job Wanted columns. Others can be made neutral and awkward by using the suffix “person”. Tank Gunnerperson or Plumbperson. You’ll get the hang of it.
B. Racially charged words
Every word – every single word – is racially charged and unacceptable. You just need to fix someone in your sights and listen for them to say anything and there you have ’em.
Again, interpretive dance is the best way to avoid the accusation of racism. But be careful which soundtrack you use. Avoid anything from Michael Jackson.
C. The passionate words
You must not mock people who are passionate, for that is cruel. You’ll be amazed at how many there are and how thin your conversation can become as new divisions of victims and warriors appear on the battlefield.
An example: You may have been careful and kindly in the old days about physical or mental distress, and could navigate a simple request for a pie with sauce at the local deli without getting a glare of outrage and a good half-hour scolding. Now, the ingredients of the pie and sauce will offend one person, and the company that baked it will offend another. The fact that it is sold in a shop will make a third person angry and the fact that you have enough money to pay for it will cause a howl from a fourth quarter.
And don’t think you’ll escape condemnation by staying outside on the footpath and eating a carrot stick, either, you racist you…
Well, what to do, what to do…The BGA has two recommendations – both of them equally invalid.
Either say what you will in words of your own choosing or say nothing at all. You’ll be thought a fool if you adopt the second course of action and prove it if you adopt the first, but in this first case you will at least have the satisfaction of being damned that you did instead of being damned that you didn’t.
Remember: Careful Talk Costs Lives