Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Army Speech Police

We read:

"There's a big fuss at the moment over a list of "no-no words" circulated by an office of the Army. Compiled by someone with expertise in equal opportunity matters, the list purports to be 76 examples of words that simply should not be used in the workplace, as they are hurtful.

"Colonial," for instance, is on the list. Ditto "Canuck." Many are chortling at the evident politically-correct overreach. The list evidently discourages workplace talk about Vancouver's professional hockey team. Others are predictably angry.

"Red-handed," for example, is on the list. But, this term does not refer to Native Americans but instead dates to the 15th century. Its first recorded usage of "red-handed" is in Scott's Ivanhoe. The "red" refers to blood, not skin color.

"Blacklisted," ironically, is also on the blacklist. Again, to those at home keeping score, this word has nothing to do with race. Ask the blacklisted "Hollywood Ten," who would probably tell you that, while the idea of a blacklist may be offensive, the restriction against mentioning it is even more so.

But, my favorite one is this: "Sounds greek to me (sic)." Anyone who, like me, spent time in school trying to learn classical Greek will attest that the first hurdle one encounters is learning all those funny letters. Anyone not familiar with the Greek alphabet, when presented with Greek words will .... well, they will find it all Greek to them.