‘Language Police’ authoress Diane Ravitch asked readers to send in illustrations of pc bowdlerizing in textbooks.
She received some dandies:
An addict might get his feelings hurt if you call him an addict. It’s better to say ‘an individual with a drug problem.’
And speaking of individuals, here is how one textbook rewrote Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’: ‘How many roads must an individual walk down before you can call them an adult?’
Inkwell was pleased that Ravitch singled out IWF’s very own Candace deRussy for praise in the language wars.
When DeRussy, a trustee for SUNY, inquired about language police guidelines in New York schools, she got some boilerplate. She was told that the state simply tried to avoid hurting feelings. DeRussy sensed that this was not the full story.
Not one to be brushed off, Candace pursued her question through the Freedom of Information Act.
She learned that New York relies (among other pc sources) on Rosalie Maggio’s ‘The Bias Free Word Finder,’ which says: ‘We may not always understand why a word hurts. We don’t have to. It’s enough that someone says that language doesn’t represent me.’
In other words, notes Ravitch, ‘if any word or phrase is likely to give anyone offense, no matter how far-fetched, it should be deleted.’
It’s to be expected that this rules out mentioning somebody’s age or ethnicity, but more eye-brow-raising banned terms include ‘grandfather clause’ and ‘penmanship.’
‘Illegitimate’ and ‘illiterate’ are also no-no’s. (The second term is likely to be particularly offensive to those who made up the guidelines.)
We commend Candace for her doggedness’and hasten to add, for the benefit of New York state censors, that ‘doggedness’ is not a pejorative term. It’s a nice word.