By Chris Slater
I read the print, and then sat quietly at my desk wondering if anybody else was going to say anything. One of my jobs at the Gazette-Mail is to read articles and look for errors; poor grammar, chopping a 50-word sentence into two 25-worders, correcting factual errors, and so forth. Several of us were reading tomorrow’s front page, with its piece commemorating those lives lost during the Holocaust. One word caught my attention, and I was fixated on it:
When I noticed that nobody else was bringing it up, I started consulting the AP Stylebook and searching Google for whether or not “Jew” is acceptable terminology (and it is). In today’s culture, you always want to make sure you’re being politically correct. In the course of my online searching, I came across a standup comedy routine from Louis C.K. where he talks about “Jew” being one of the few words that can both describe a group of people and then be used as a slur against them.
And, then I felt weird, because are we supposed to be listening to Louis C.K. anymore?
I guess the issue at debate these days is how politically correct is too politically correct? Was it wrong of me to worry over a word that in the newspaper context had only the best of intentions?
One of my favorite comic minds of all time is Norm Macdonald, and he hosted a YouTube video podcast that is now being converted into a Netflix production. On one of his shows, he had comedian Todd Glass as his guest. Glass had recently made news by coming out as a homosexual around the time he was 50. Norm and Todd had a discussion about terms that used to be socially acceptable, but with changing mindsets have now become simply wrong and offensive. Having a schizophrenic brother, Norm brought up how he doesn’t like the term “crazy” being used to define people who are difficult to work with.
Both being comedians, they talked about the Eddie Murphy comedy routines from the early 1980s, and how groundbreaking and on top of the world he was at the time. Now, nearly 40 years later, Murphy would be booed off stage if he started his bit about how it creeps him out when homosexuals smile at him (and Murphy uses the f-word slur to describe them).
The governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, had his own word snafu recently. I crinkled my nose the first time I saw in print Justice using the words “Chinaman,” and apparently I wasn’t the only one who took umbrage. Justice issued a swift apology and basically gave a “Who woulda thunk it was bad?” response and a shrug of his shoulders.
People with common sense thought it was bad, Jim. If there is any racial implication, no matter how harmless you believe it to be, it shouldn’t be part of your vernacular. If your choice of word can deeply offend somebody who is suffering through some sort of pain or disorder, then you should not use it.
With that, here is a list of words that I see used blindly and with no regard for being politically incorrect. Let’s take these words out of the collective vocabulary.
Depressed … We all have days when we’re feeling a little down, but that doesn’t mean that there is a chemical imbalance in your head that causes you to live your life in a state of permanent sadness.
Bipolar … In 2008, there was a high-ranking student at Concord University’s Student Government Association. He was always well-mannered, polite, and a nice guy. One night he flipped out at a campus event and began yelling at another student official. When writing about it in that week’s issue of The Concordian, I called him out and said, “I don’t know if he’s bipolar, or what.” That wasn’t appropriate, for two reasons: 1) If he did have an actual disorder, then it’s not cool for me to make fun of him for it and 2) If he didn’t, then I shouldn’t have belittled those who do by stereotyping them as people who blow their stack in public.
OCD … Being meticulous when you clean is different than having obsessive compulsive disorder. There are people who cannot function properly due to the threat of germs or certain stimuli interfering with their routines. Making sure everybody uses a coaster does not make you OCD.
Alcoholic … Yeah, you drink every weekend, wake up hungover a few mornings, and your friend has several funny Snapchat stories featuring you. You just like to have some fun and unwind. Alcoholics ruin their lives and the lives of their family and loved ones through their actions.
Retarded … Messing up and doing something dumb is different than having a developmental disorder. The words are not interchangeable.
Gay … The was a big one that I took strides to break from in my early 20s. If something was lame, then it was gay. The only thing lame about being gay is knowing that people hate homosexuals just because of the way they live their lives.
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What are some other words that you hear thrown around that are actually insensitive and wrong? Let us know and maybe we can change the way some people talk around here. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter, message me on Facebook, or send firstname.lastname@example.org an email.