Saturday, December 10, 2005


I read a news item in The Times of India dated 21/11/2005*, describing how certain ‘hurtful’ words are going to be replaced by more sensitive ones.
Nobody is going to 'fail' any more—they’ll just have 'deferred success'. What is wrong with failure anyway? If one has been lazy, or not capable enough to succeed, then too bad. Try again. Work harder. Try another way. Take another road.
A terrorist will just be a misguided criminal (poor thing! ----what comes to mind is Captain Haddock’s ‘misguided missile’).What will happen when they decide that ‘criminal’ is hurtful too? However, if blunting the term takes away the power and the awe, fine.
A ‘brainstorm’ is going to be a ‘thought shower’. I thought it was a good thing—something like a sudden inspiration? I see from the Chambers dictionary that it also means sudden disturbance of the mind.
Long long ago a person whose behaviour or development did not conform to normal was called mad. Then it was retarded, and then mentally challenged. Are we treating these people any better?
And, and and…
‘Intrinsic aptitude’ is what will describe the reason why ‘women might be underrepresented in the fields of engineering and science.’ Why? First of all I have grave doubts about there being fewer women in Science---in my MSc Physics batch in I.I.T, we were 14 girls in a class of 20! And the topper was a girl too. Of course, this was an exception to the rule, but one can’t generalize. I have met men who have absolutely no head for science, I have met women—uneducated ones, who have the scientific temperament. I regularly back my car into trees and pillars trying to reverse parallel park, because my right brain is just not made for spatial ability, but then so do a couple of guys I know.
What are we trying to guard against? Whom are we trying to protect? Have we become so civilized that we can’t bear to even think of hurting another’s feelings? Have we? Have we really? Is calling ‘women’, ‘womyn’ going to make them safer from abuse? If so then what is wrong with the practice of opening doors for the fairer sex, rising when she enters the room, carrying her bags for her? Maybe that inculcates sensitivity too.
Is it not better to call a person blind and help him cross the street (if he wants, that is) rather than calling him visually challenged and not doing anything for him? Disabled. Differently abled. These are words, just words. Using milder words may hypnotise the user into behaving mildly too---which is debatable, anyway, but the recipient of these words may not benefit much.
Random Thought: Let all Delhi drivers take a course in the fabled Lucknowi “Pehle Aap(After you)”. Maybe incidents of road rage will come down then.

*I'm not yet into providing convenient links!


Blogger sinusoidally said...

You have good arguments however I do not completely agree with it. Replacing harsh words with ones that have smoother countours is definitely more appealing to ears and also to the thoughts we associate with them. It removes the negativity associated with them. I am sure no mother would want us to call her child 'mad'. Though calling him/her mentally challenged does not change the situation, however it does save emotions that may run high. And it changes the light in which we would see that child. A retarted kid is someone who can't do stuff on his own. A mentally challenged kid is someone who just needs assisstance with activities of daily living.

I remember just a couple of years ago I referred to someone as 'deaf and mute' (just the way I had learnt in India) and I was met with sharp criticism. Here in USA they are called hearing impaired. I think it is hard to know how it feels unless we really put ourselves in the shoes of the person who may be inflicted with brutalities of life. We can change what is being done for these people by making a start from within us by not using those words. That is the first step.

Btw a person's spatial ability may have a little more to do than just the Right part of the brain!

12/12/05 8:33 PM  
Blogger ... said...

In the process of being "politically correct" all of us end up sounding ridiculous.

Delhi drivers could definitely use that. I have experienced road rage incidents on two accounts in's pretty scary for a 'southern' person :-)

12/12/05 10:18 PM  
Blogger LAK said...

Sinusoidally, I am all for sensitive terms, except when they are carried too far--like saying deferred success for fail. I think as it is we cushion our kids too much, and the next generation has lesser coping skills. By all means, we should use the terms hearing impaired, visually impaired/challenged---but then if the terms like"short" are taken out of context and replaced with 'horizontally challenged'?
Keya, tell me about it!

12/12/05 11:55 PM  
Blogger Thulika - My pen said...

How about 'sadistic pleassure' being replaced by 'Unholy joy'?..I some how love that! Sandra Pullock is an 'actor' and not an 'actress' any more. And the more serious stuff, 'Handicapped' is refered as 'Physically challenged'(and mentally challenged) and such children are refered to as 'children with special needs'. Language and usages change with changing attitude of society, and shouldnt it be that way? A more polite and socially oriented society may opt to use 'less harsh'. A society is jugded by how it treats its weakest.
Such changes in usages have a lot to do with long time efforts in many countries (particularly USA) for 'Social Engineering' to create better societies. They have tried to mould through generations of people, the ettiqutes used, life style followed, behavioral pattern, courtisy, honesty and so on. People who have visited US in a gap of 10 years have noticed the difference i culture that has come about. In India we have not yet crossed the stage of basic need for physical planning, only beyond which can social planning work. Social planning can not come in 5 year packages and requires really long term understanding and vision as to what the society can be...:)..Am I bouling bouncers?????..:)..

28/12/05 10:04 PM  
Blogger LAK said...

There is a very fine line between using euphemisms for sensitive issues and conditions, and taking things too far. Secondly, sometimes everybody uses euphemisms, but very few people implement that sensitivity in their actions.

30/12/05 1:32 AM  

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