Language Ninnies

"We're destroying words -- scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." --George Orwell
Yesterday I was riding down the street and saw one of those DayGlo orange warning signs that read "FLAGGER AHEAD." Just typing the word "flagger" causes my word processor to upchuck, and mark (flag, if you will) the word as a misspelling. My Mac dictionary doesn't recognize it, nor is the word listed on dictionary.com or in my 700-page copy of Webster's New Dictionary of the English Language

There is no such thing as a flagger. The word doesn't exist. It's simply not a real word. It was made up by, and lives only in the minds of, hand-wringing, bed-wetting, crybaby language ninnies, whose sole function in life seems to be to literally neuter (as in chop the ‘nads off of) our language.

Other languages are not experiencing a similar castration. Spanish, French, Italian -- all are filled with gender-specific nouns and verb conjugations. Yet there seems to be no concerted effort in countries where those beautiful languages are spoken to rip from them the words that denote gender. On NPR the other day, a bastion of politically-correct liberal thinking if ever there were one, I heard a program hostess describing females from Latin American as Latinas and males as Latinos, terms that in Spanish are quite specific and quite correct.

In English, though, to call a female flight attendant a stewardess or a male doing the same job a steward is to invite scorn, derision, and accusations of sexism. Lord help you if you tip your waitress instead of your server. In our left-leaning neutralist culture, ladies have become gentlewomen and fishermen have turned into fishers (another word that's hard to find anywhere except in the annals of the U.S. Department of Labor). Prostitutes have become sex workers and manholes have turned into access ports.

According to business communication consultant Lenora Billings-Harris, even the term "flip chart" is loaded with racist connotations and needs to be replaced with easel, lest Filipinos take offense. I kid you not.

Billings-Harris writes on sideroad.com that the word "handicapped" is insensitive and should be replaced by "people with special needs; people who are physically/mentally challenged; people with disabilities."

Imagine trying to fit some of those phrases on a parking sign.

The PC police have pulled a Lorena Bobbitt on freshmen, chairmen, and spokesmen, emasculating them and turning them into first-year students, chairs (or chairpersons), and spokespersons.

Funny how manslaughter hasn't changed, though, huh?

I prefer specificity in language. Nor do I see anything wrong with using words that reflect a person's sex. Why do the language ninnies find insult in any word that is gender specific? What's wrong or demeaning about being a lady, a waitress, or an actress? Katharine Hepburn was a great actress, not a great "actor in a female role."

Why do we torture our language so? Why do we invent abstract non-words with no descriptive power to replace actual concrete words that provide details about the things they name?

When your language doesn't contain the descriptive power necessary to distinguish between a woman who heads a committee and a recliner, something is wrong.

Chuck Hustmyre is an award-winning investigative journalist and book author. He invites your comments at chuckhustmyre.com.
"We're destroying words -- scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." --George Orwell
Yesterday I was riding down the street and saw one of those DayGlo orange warning signs that read "FLAGGER AHEAD." Just typing the word "flagger" causes my word processor to upchuck, and mark (flag, if you will) the word as a misspelling. My Mac dictionary doesn't recognize it, nor is the word listed on dictionary.com or in my 700-page copy of Webster's New Dictionary of the English Language

There is no such thing as a flagger. The word doesn't exist. It's simply not a real word. It was made up by, and lives only in the minds of, hand-wringing, bed-wetting, crybaby language ninnies, whose sole function in life seems to be to literally neuter (as in chop the ‘nads off of) our language.

Other languages are not experiencing a similar castration. Spanish, French, Italian -- all are filled with gender-specific nouns and verb conjugations. Yet there seems to be no concerted effort in countries where those beautiful languages are spoken to rip from them the words that denote gender. On NPR the other day, a bastion of politically-correct liberal thinking if ever there were one, I heard a program hostess describing females from Latin American as Latinas and males as Latinos, terms that in Spanish are quite specific and quite correct.

In English, though, to call a female flight attendant a stewardess or a male doing the same job a steward is to invite scorn, derision, and accusations of sexism. Lord help you if you tip your waitress instead of your server. In our left-leaning neutralist culture, ladies have become gentlewomen and fishermen have turned into fishers (another word that's hard to find anywhere except in the annals of the U.S. Department of Labor). Prostitutes have become sex workers and manholes have turned into access ports.

According to business communication consultant Lenora Billings-Harris, even the term "flip chart" is loaded with racist connotations and needs to be replaced with easel, lest Filipinos take offense. I kid you not.

Billings-Harris writes on sideroad.com that the word "handicapped" is insensitive and should be replaced by "people with special needs; people who are physically/mentally challenged; people with disabilities."

Imagine trying to fit some of those phrases on a parking sign.

The PC police have pulled a Lorena Bobbitt on freshmen, chairmen, and spokesmen, emasculating them and turning them into first-year students, chairs (or chairpersons), and spokespersons.

Funny how manslaughter hasn't changed, though, huh?

I prefer specificity in language. Nor do I see anything wrong with using words that reflect a person's sex. Why do the language ninnies find insult in any word that is gender specific? What's wrong or demeaning about being a lady, a waitress, or an actress? Katharine Hepburn was a great actress, not a great "actor in a female role."

Why do we torture our language so? Why do we invent abstract non-words with no descriptive power to replace actual concrete words that provide details about the things they name?

When your language doesn't contain the descriptive power necessary to distinguish between a woman who heads a committee and a recliner, something is wrong.

Chuck Hustmyre is an award-winning investigative journalist and book author. He invites your comments at chuckhustmyre.com.