Bits and Pieces of English Grammar & Usage: Political Correctness
Thread poster: Last Hermit

Last Hermit
Local time: 00:52
Chinese to English
+ ...
Oct 21, 2005

According to the New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE), political correctness (also political correctitude)
refers to "the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."

Thus, from the perspectives of political correctness, it is wise NOT to use Taboo terms such as nigger in the public, even though it is true that such word is sometimes used in some communities or on some occasions. If, however, you believe that such usage is acceptable in your communities, do not use it elsewhere. In fact, the toothpaste brand name darkie, a word slightly less offensive than nigger, had to be changed to darlie on the grounds of political incorrectness. Even so, the problem remains unresolved owing to the logo's discriminating connotations. (http://www.danwei.org/archives/000702.html)

Regarding the usage of black, negro etc, you may want to refer further to The American Heritage Dictionary:
The Oxford English Dictionary contains evidence of the use of black with reference to African peoples as early as 1400, and certainly the word has been in wide use in racial and ethnic contexts ever since. However, it was not until the late 1960s that black (or Black) gained its present status as a self-chosen ethnonym with strong connotations of racial pride, replacing the then-current Negro among Blacks and non-Blacks alike with remarkable speed. Equally significant is the degree to which Negro became discredited in the process, reflecting the profound changes taking place in the Black community during the tumultuous years of the civil rights and Black Power movements. The recent success of African American offers an interesting contrast in this regard. Though by no means a modern coinage, African American achieved sudden prominence at the end of the 1980s when several Black leaders, including Jesse Jackson, championed it as an alternative ethnonym for Americans of African descent. The appeal of this term is obvious, alluding as it does not to skin color but to an ethnicity constructed of geography, history, and culture, and it won rapid acceptance in the media alongside similar forms such as Asian American, Hispanic American, and Italian American. But unlike what happened a generation earlier, African American has shown little sign of displacing or discrediting black, which remains both popular and positive. The difference may well lie in the fact that the campaign for African American came at a time of relative social and political stability, when Americans in general and Black Americans in particular were less caught up in issues involving radical change than they were in the 1960s. ?lt;I>Black is sometimes capitalized in its racial sense, especially in the African-American press, though the lowercase form is still widely used by authors of all races. The capitalization of Black does raise ancillary problems for the treatment of the term white. Orthographic evenhandedness would seem to require the use of uppercase White, but this form might be taken to imply that whites constitute a single ethnic group, an issue that is certainly debatable. Uppercase White is also sometimes associated with the writings of white supremacist groups, a sufficient reason of itself for many to dismiss it. On the other hand, the use of lowercase white in the same context as uppercase Black will obviously raise questions as to how and why the writer has distinguished between the two groups. There is no entirely happy solution to this problem. In all likelihood, uncertainty as to the mode of styling of white has dissuaded many publications from adopting the capitalized form Black.

Refer to the NODE for the new usage of this very offisive word nigger:
USAGE: The word nigger was first used as an adjective denoting a black person in the 17th century and has had strong offensive connotations ever since. Today it remains one of the most racially offensive words in the language. Ironically, it has acquired a new strand of use in recent years, being used by black people as a mildly disparaging way of referring to other black people.

[Edited at 2005-10-22 04:23]


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Denyce Seow  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 00:52
Member (2004)
Chinese to English
Quite a headache Oct 21, 2005

This PC (political correctness) thing can be quite a headache. One has to be really conscious of what he or she says. You have to describe someone as "horizontally challenged" or "gravitationally challenged" (*gosh*) instead of "fat", or "vertically challenged" instead of "short". Here are some good examples on Wikepedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness (scroll down to "Examples of language modification")

Have fun!


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Last Hermit
Local time: 00:52
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TOPIC STARTER
That's clumsy enough. Oct 21, 2005

Overweight should be fine.

BTW, your "he or she says" could well be replaced by "they say" for the purpose of PC. But the best solution would be: People have to...

weiwei wrote:
This PC (political correctness) thing can be quite a headache. One has to be really conscious of what he or she says. You have to describe someone as "horizontally challenged" or "gravitationally challenged" (*gosh*) instead of "fat", or "vertically challenged" instead of "short". Here are some good examples on Wikepedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness (scroll down to "Examples of language modification")

Have fun!


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Chinoise  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:52
English to Chinese
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two more:))) Oct 21, 2005

skinny(PI)-->horizontally challenged, skeletally prominent(PC);
ugly(PI)-->aesthetically challenged, cosmetically different(PC).

(Just for fun:) )



weiwei wrote:

This PC (political correctness) thing can be quite a headache. One has to be really conscious of what he or she says. You have to describe someone as "horizontally challenged" or "gravitationally challenged" (*gosh*) instead of "fat", or "vertically challenged" instead of "short". Here are some good examples on Wikepedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness (scroll down to "Examples of language modification")

Have fun!


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Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:52
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English to Chinese
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己所不欲,勿施于人 Oct 21, 2005

Last Hermit, and All,

Thank you for the great topic! I wonder if you were inspired by my previous message in another folder a few says ago. As translators, we must understand the silent effect of each word, especially the explicit and inexplicit meanings to the native speakers.

In my opinion, being sensitive is always a safe approach. We are colored people ourselves, and subjected to other people's derogatory remarks. We can mock at ourselves, but we should make effort to be cautious and avoid using the words that can cause discomfort to other ethnic groups. Confusious says, "Take all you can eat, and eat all you can take." Oops, that is a wrong quote I saw in the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurant in my neighborhood. The Confusious words I meant to quote here is "己所不欲,勿施于人" which means "Do not give to other people the things that are not desired by yourself."

weiwei, very interesting website! I will spend more time to explore it. I think you did everything right to learn German.

Kevin


[Edited at 2005-10-21 20:18]


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Last Hermit
Local time: 00:52
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TOPIC STARTER
he - they Nov 7, 2005


Excerpt from
Collins COBUILD:

he - they

`he'

He, him, his, and himself are sometimes used to refer back to an indefinite pronoun or to a word such as `person', `child', or `student'.
If anybody complained about this, he was told that things would soon get back to normal.

It won't hurt a child to have his meals at a different time.

Many people object to this use because it suggests that the person referred to is male.
`he or she'

You can sometimes use he or she, him or her, his or her, or himself or herself.
Teach a child to dial 999 and read out the telephone number from which he or she is speaking.

The important thing is that the student should feel that that bit of writing belongs to him or her.

Nothing excuses the child from his or her own responsibilities.

There were several cases where one of them shot the other and then shot himself or herself.

Many people avoid these expressions because they think they sound clumsy and unnatural, especially when more than one of them is used in the same sentence.
`they'

In conversation, most speakers use they, them, and their.
Nearly everybody thinks they're middle class.

If I think someone may attempt to take an overdose, I will spend hours talking to them.

Don't hope to change anyone or their attitudes.

This use used to be considered incorrect, but it is becoming more common in writing as well as in speech. In this book, we usually use they, them, and their.
It is often possible to avoid all the above uses. You can sometimes do this by using plurals. For example, instead of saying `Every student has his own room', you can say `All the students have their own rooms'. Instead of saying `Anyone who goes inside must take off his shoes', you can say `People who go inside must take off their shoes'.
(c) HarperCollins Publishers.
 
Excerpt from AHD 4th:
Traditionally the pronouns he, him, and his have been used as generic or gender-neutral singular pronouns, as in A novelist should write about what he knows best and No one seems to take any pride in his work anymore. Since the early 20th century, however, this usage has come under increasing criticism for reflecting and perpetuating gender stereotyping. •Defenders of the traditional usage have argued that the masculine pronouns he, his, and him can be used generically to refer to men and women. This analysis of the generic use of he is linguistically doubtful. If he were truly a gender-neutral form, we would expect that it could be used to refer to the members of any group containing both men and women. But in fact the English masculine form is an odd choice when it refers to a female member of such a group. There is something plainly disconcerting about sentences such as Each of the stars of As Good As It Gets [i.e., Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt] won an Academy Award for his performance. In this case, the use of his forces the reader to envision a single male who stands as the representative member of the group, a picture that is at odds with the image that comes to mind when we picture the stars of As Good As It Gets. Thus he is not really a gender-neutral pronoun; rather, it refers to a male who is to be taken as the representative member of the group referred to by its antecedent. The traditional usage, then, is not simply a grammatical convention; it also suggests a particular pattern of thought. •It is clear that many people now routinely construct their remarks to avoid generic he, usually using one of two strategies: changing to the plural, so they is used (which is often the easiest solution) or using compound and coordinate forms such as he/she or he or she (which can be cumbersome in sustained use). In some cases, the generic pronoun can simply be dropped or changed to an article with no change in meaning. The sentence A writer who draws on personal experience for material should not be surprised if reviewers seize on that fact is complete as it stands and requires no pronoun before the word material. The sentence Every student handed in his assignment is just as clear when written Every student handed in the assignment. •Not surprisingly, the opinion of the Usage Panel in such matters is mixed. While 37 percent actually prefer the generic his in the sentence A taxpayer who fails to disclose the source of &rule3m; income can be prosecuted under the new law, 46 percent prefer a coordinate form like his or her; 7 percent felt that no pronoun was needed in the sentence; 2 percent preferred an article, usually the; and another 2 percent overturned tradition by advocating the use of generic her, a strategy that brings the politics of language to the reader's notice. Thus a clear majority of the Panel prefers something other than his. The writer who chooses to use generic he and its inflected forms in the face of the strong trend away from that usage may be viewed as deliberately calling attention to traditional gender roles or may simply appear to be insensitive. See Usage Notes at each, every, neither, one, she, they.

Excerpt from NODE:
USAGE: The word they (with its counterparts them, their, and themselves) as a singular pronoun to refer to a person of unspecified sex has been used since at least the 16th century. In the late 20th century, as the traditional use of he to refer to a person of either sex came under scrutiny on the grounds of sexism, this use of they has become more common. It is now generally accepted in contexts where it follows an indefinite pronoun such as anyone, no one, someone, or a person, as in anyone can join if they are a resident and each to their own. In other contexts, coming after singular nouns, the use of they is now common, though less widely accepted, especially in formal contexts. Sentences such as ask a friend if they could help are still criticized for being ungrammatical. Nevertheless, in view of the growing acceptance of they and its obvious practical advantages, they is used in this dictionary in many cases where he would have been used formerly. See also usage at HE and SHE.


[Edited at 2005-11-07 02:20]

[Edited at 2005-11-07 02:21]


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Angus Woo
Local time: 00:52
Chinese to English
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This is funny. Nov 7, 2005

Chinoise wrote:

skinny(PI)-->horizontally challenged, skeletally prominent(PC);
ugly(PI)-->aesthetically challenged, cosmetically different(PC).

(Just for fun:) )



weiwei wrote:

This PC (political correctness) thing can be quite a headache. One has to be really conscious of what he or she says. You have to describe someone as "horizontally challenged" or "gravitationally challenged" (*gosh*) instead of "fat", or "vertically challenged" instead of "short". Here are some good examples on Wikepedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness (scroll down to "Examples of language modification")

Have fun!

I like "gravitationally challenged" and cosmetically different. Wow, there surely are many ways to tell the truth. So no one is stupid, just lost in thoughts. That sounds great.

This world is truly getting better and better every day.


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Chinoise  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:52
English to Chinese
+ ...
Hong Kong Tour Nov 7, 2005

Several months ago, we traveled to Hong Kong (Even today, I’m still enchanted with its breathtaking scenery and prosperity). When traveling there, we also marveled at everyone’s ability to be so fluently trilingual. Undoubtedly, the whole world is getting better and better. China serves as a good example in this regard.


Angus WU wrote:
I like "gravitationally challenged" and cosmetically different. Wow, there surely are many ways to tell the truth. So no one is stupid, just lost in thoughts. That sounds great.
This world is truly getting better and better every day.


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