I mentioned in an earlier post that I dislike what politics does to language. A good example is how we refer to minorities of all types now. The acceptable terms keep changing and if you use the term you grew up using that was considered the polite or correct term at the time, you suddenly are pegged as a racist, homophobe, or something equally deplorable.
A good example is the word crippled. My grandmother, who didn’t have a mean bone in her body, often referred to children stricken with polio – a rather common phenomenon in her youth – as crippled. She didn’t mean it as a put-down. Kids in those days were crippled in every sense of the word. They were often encumbered by clunky wheelchairs or crutches and were unable to participate fully in athletics and most other mainstream activities. I used to attend a YMCA camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains every summer as a child. There was a camp right next to ours run by the Easter Seals organization and it was called the Crippled Children’s Camp. That was its official name. Fortunately, as time went by, afflicted individuals (see how cleverly I avoided using any of “those” words) became more fully integrated into society, and technology improved their ability to participate in a wider range of activities. Polio vaccines have also greatly reduced their numbers (except among the anti-science morons who find their children in iron lungs again these days, but natural selection will deal with them).
Over time the word crippled became politically incorrect and was replaced by disabled, then by handicapped. Then even that became politically incorrect, at least to many, and it has been replaced by “handicapable” or “differently abled.” Give me a break. These concocted monstrosities are inconvenient mouthfuls that convey nothing other than the speaker’s conformity to the political agenda of that interest group. People who can’t walk are crippled. Handicapped, too. There are things they can’t do, jobs they don’t qualify for. That doesn’t mean we should treat them badly or exclude them from full participation in society. Quite the opposite. Let’s just not point an accusatory finger at those who use plain honest words.
I could cite similar examples involving race, sexual orientation, etc., but someone would be bound to take offense. In fact, I have no doubt someone already has. Maybe I’m just a logophobe.