I agree with one thing that Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of The Global Language Monitor says:
?At this point it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in any form of public dialogue without offending someone?s sensitivities, whether right, left or center.? (Paul Payack, Global Language Monitor site)
Well, not complete agreement. I’m not offended by what he says. I just think it’s dumb.
Although I had never heard of Mr. Payack’s site, apparently he has taken it upon himself to compile, for the last six years, a list of what he deems the ten most politically incorrect words in the English language. Topping the list is a phrase we use all the time on this blog, “swine flu.” We’ve even discussed — several times — the back-and-forth over what it should be called and we’ve always opted for “swine flu.” His reason for putting it at the top of the list of politically incorrect names is that government agencies in various countries and intergovernmental bodies like WHO and FAO have tried to use other names to placate the pork industry. As if they don’t do things like that all the time for all sorts of reasons, including placating the US or China or Zimbabwe. The swine flu naming business was a widely ridiculed idea and although many official bodies persist (although CDC still calls it swine flu), this can’t conceivably rise to the level of the top politically incorrect phrase in the English language. He’s not even scientifically correct when he says A(H1N1) is its formal name. It doesn’t have a formal name. That’s why it has so many other names. But why should we expect the self appointed monitor of our language to get it right? He’s not a scientist and doesn’t know the right answer.
The whole project of making a list like this is dumb. A look at some of the other entries reveals that Mr. Payack has confused any kind of controversy with political incorrectness, whatever political incorrectness might mean to him. Number two on the list is “flush toilet,” on the basis that they are considered by many to be environmentally problematic (which they are). Or “Green Revolution,” because it has produced monoculture and chemically intense agriculture, which it has. In the US, the words “socialist” and “liberal” are considered politically incorrect by the mainstream media (who are careful to explain that when they are used as descriptors it is always negative) but for some of us they are a badge of honor. I wouldn’t put them on a list of politically incorrect words. In fact I wouldn’t make a list of such words because it’s a fool’s errand.
In fact, it’s stupid. Or is that politically incorrect, Mr. Payack?