Posted by: secretperson | September 20, 2008

Sociology – PC Goes Mad

The Telegraph has a story today on Universities applying new politically correct guidelines. These were issued from the British Sociological Association, and I am not quite sure if they are part of some kind of parody or sociological experiment to see what people will apply in their desire to avoid the most heinous of all crimes, causing offence.

The article brings up the most ridiculous suggestions, including avoiding the phrase “Old Masters” (who were all men) because it is sexist, as is “seminal” which derives from the word semen. Well I looked it up (as we all should with all words in our efforts not to cause offence!) and it can mean “of seed”. Easy to see the link with semen, but not really offensive. Hence the meaning of seeding ideas and influencing future work.

Anyway, I am never happy with journalists choosing what bits I laugh at so I thought I’d look up the source documents and see what else was there. There are seperate guidelines for anti-sexist language, for anti-racist language and for non-disablist language.

Man-made is out, to be replaced by synthetic. Forefathers are now ancestors. And the master copy of a documents should be the original. So basically searched a dictionary for every use of “man”, “master” and words derived from the word semen.

The anti-racist list may be helpful in some ways as the ‘correct’ words are often changing. However it does seem to me that what is correct to not offend someone from a minority ethnic group, and what is correct to not offend a sociology professor armed with an etymology dictionary may be very different things.

For example the word black (sociologists favour lower case it seems). In every day usage it means of African or Caribbean origin, and is as far as I know inoffensive. However in sociology it means non-white, but you should use the phrase “black peoples” or “black communities” to represent that variety. They also use “minority ethnics” which sounds to me a bit odd, why not minority ethnic people?

The wierdness goes on. Immigrants becomes in-migrants, because “in the British context has racist overtones, being associated with immigration legislation”. Ah the old immigration control is racist one. “Overseas” may be out as “most would feel that this is a pejorative term since it refers to Britain’s former overseas possessions”. “Tribe” has racist overtones, as does “pagan”.

Even “multicultural”, beloved of all politicians struggling to praise Britain or England, is wrong as “it assumes that they are all equal rather than that some are dominated by the racism of others”.

For the disabled medical labels should be avoided. Patient becomes person. The mentally ill are now mental health service users (what about the untreated ones?). And I can now classify myself as a non-disabled person.

Now I don’t want to inadvertently offend people. But surely this is just ridiculous. Still if it pays well I reckon I could find offence at pretty much anything.

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