South Africa has thankfully been spared (at least so far) from the more virulent strains of the pernicious linguistic anemia known as PC.PC, or politically correct to give the disease its self-styled handle, was incubated in America and has now reached epidemic proportions in the land of the free and easy English usage.
It has quickly crossed the Atlantic, to be embraced with fervor by Britain’s loony fringe who invented terms like sexism , heightism, weightism and any other isms the can dream up.
PC is a bastard child of the professional do-gooders, the sociologists, the feminists, and the psycho - babblers, the thought police of Orwell’s 1984 nightmare- who would mould our minds by manipulating our language.
South African trendies, never too slow to espouse a new fashion, no doubt will be riding the PC bandwagon, berating the lost sheep who stray from the path of linguistic rectitude. PC is the vocabulary of the old fool Thomas Bowdler in whose Family Shakespeare all the words and phrases that brought a blush to a maiden’s cheek had been expurgated.
For anyone not familiar with the disease, let me give some examples so that you can diagnose its early stages and stamp it out before it takes root.
PC bans the word disabled and substitutes other abled. And an able-bodied seamen cannot guarantee he'll always be an AB. In PC-speak he's just temporarily abled. Nor is it correct to say that someone suffers from something or is afflicted by a disease. The approved PC terminology is experiencing the ailment in question.
Blind as a bat is considered offensive to those visually other-abled, not to mention members of the family vespertilionidae. Handicap must not be used because it carries connotations of cap in hand. Whatever happened to connotations of golf and horse racing, quite apart from the etymological gymnastics necessary to reach such an asinine conclusion?
We will deal with handicap in a future column. Meantime, beware the insidious inroads of PC. Some instances may be acceptable. We have rightly abandoned certain words in South Africa because they are offensive.
But it would appear that the real purpose of politically correct language is to give employment to those who have invented it. In their obsession with language sensitivity, they have become insensitivity to language.
The remedy is simple. Always call a spade a spade, unless it’s a bloody shovel.