Bring back the dysphemism!

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity”: Yeats’ famous line is probably truer now that it was 100 years ago. Tact, diplomacy and sensitivity have been taken to such extremes that it has become almost impossible to be honest. We tend to keep quiet, avoid conflict at all costs, curl up in escapist cocoons, rather than speak plainly with integrity.

But it can be kind to be cruel sometimes. We need to face all the reality of life in the 21st century, embracing the wondrous splendour of our world along with the stark brutality and ugliness. If your best friend is being incredibly stupid, say so. She’ll thank you some day, even if she stops talking to you for a while. If the plumber does a lousy job, tell him he is an idiot and refuse to pay. If your plants don’t grow properly for no reason, swear at them – it works!  

We need, in short, to begin saying it as it is, even if we do come across a little brutal on occasion,

This is not what the education authorities in New York City are doing (see http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/03/26/war-on-words-nyc-dept-of-education-wants-50-forbidden-words-removed-from-standardized-tests/). Worried about certain words or topics making students feel unpleasant, they are requesting that a whole bunch of words be removed from city-issued tests.

This includes “dinosaur” because of its links to evolution and in case it upsets creationists; “Halloween” because it suggests paganism; “birthday” because it offends Jehovah’s Witnesses; references to some foods like “pepperoni” because it is offensive to people of some religions or cultures who don’t eat it;  “divorce” in case some kids’ parents are going through one; homes with swimming pools in case some kids don’t have one; in depth discussions of sport that require prior knowledge; nuclear weapons; occult topics (including fortune tellers); anything to do with parapsychology (so anything to do with ghosts, psychic people, near death experiences, reincarnation and so on); expensive gifts or vacations; religion; religious holidays and festivals (including Christmas, Yom Kippur and Ramadan); sex; alcohol, tobacco and drugs; sex; slavery; terrorism; vermin (rats and roaches); violence; war; witchcraft; and so it goes. The dumbing down of future generations continues.

I’m quite surprised they didn’t ban the word “stupidity” as well; not only are you never meant to say, “How could you have been so stupid!”, after your child has experimented with a kitten in a microwave and then been very upset at the result, but it is also a word frequently used to describe the people in administration who draft rules that the people who actually teach are meant to follow.

You could replace “toilet cleaner” with “custodial artist”, but no matter how inventive you are, this is still a person who is paid to clean up shit. And a “residentially flexible individual” is still a homeless person. Secretaries, for some reason, are now known as administrative assistants, and frankly anything with “admin” in it has negative connotations in the 21st Century, so I really don’t understand that one, particularly  because the term is derived from the Latin word secernere, “to distinguish” or “to set apart”, with the eventual connotation of something private or confidential. But for some reason this has now been considered a bad thing.

Come to that, I’m a short, fat woman – and would prefer not to be labelled “a simultaneously virtually and horizontally challenged female individual”. And if I’m mugged, I’ve been subjected to outrageous violence, not the unforeseen funding of the historically disadvantaged underclass.

I want to know if my kids are lazy; having someone write on their report card, “Christopher was severely motivationally depressed this term” doesn’t help at all. Why not just say, “Christopher was unspeakably lazy. In fact, he is a complete slacker who is driving me to early retirement, or at least a bottle of Johnny Walker”.

And calling someone a piece of white trash is somehow far more descriptive than yelling, “You piece of a member of the mutant albino genetic-recessive global minority (pause to take a deep breath) potentially recyclable leftovers!”

Plain speaking is healthy. Why blot out anger with Prozac, when it’s so much easier simply to speak one’s mind?

 

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