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Perhaps I've grown a little cynical

by anna at 06:54 PM on June 06, 2003

I'd hate to be a congressperson forced to vote on something as ghastly as "partial birth abortion." To hear anti-abortion zealots tell it, this entails dragging a baby kicking and screaming from the womb and sucking its brains from its eggshell-like skull. Abortion enthusiasts oppose any ban on it, which they call "dilation and extraction."

You'll note I didn't use the trendy terms "pro-life" and pro-choice." Aside from mass murderers and the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, everyone is pro-life. Thus the term lacks meaning. And pro-abortion forces favor abortion, not the intentionally vague "choice." I want choice too. I want a choice between plain old cream cheese on my bagel and something more exotic that looks like vomit or worse, yoghurt.

Lest anyone dismiss these matters as strictly academic, consider the Laci Peterson case. California charged Scott Peterson with duel murders, that of his wife and their unborn child. This was done to make him eligible for the death "penalty." It also put feminist groups in the awkward position of opposing the second count as it confers personhood upon little Conner. (BTW, what was this idiot thinking? I'm sure most would agree that Laci was much prettier than his horse-faced mistress.)

I put "penalty" in quotation marks as it's preposterous to characterize the killing of a person in such a mild way. A penalty is what the IRS or an NFL referee assesses. State-sanctioned murder would be more accurate, because that is... gasp!... what it is.

Slippery Bill Clinton famously said, "That depends on how you define the word 'is.'" Everyone laughed, since "is" is such a straightforward word free of ambiguity. He clearly was engaged in semantics in an effort to mask an unpleasant reality. And that's what is @ play whenever people use euphemisms.

When used car dealers started touting their wares as "pre-owned," everybody laughed too. Oh sure, you want your car broken in by someone else. You want them trashing, smoking in or having wild sex in it and leaving used rubbers under the seat.

I believe words are of paramount importance. I think we need to use the most accurate ones available at all times. Calling a spade a spade is a time-honored tradition. Yet political correctness threatens to undermine it. Consider the term "retard." When used as a verb, it simply means "to slow." Thus when used as a noun it means "one who is slow." And mentally challenged people are slower on the uptake than others. Still, it's considered a demeaning slur. Same goes for "African American" versus "Negro." Some black people trace their roots to Caribbean islands, not Africa. And what if the fellow happens to reside in Africa? Is he then an African-African? "Negro" is nothing more than short for Negroid, which is the technical name for this particular race. Assuming there's any point in mentioning someone's race @ all, which is debatable, "Negro" should be acceptable. But of course it isn't, any more than it was for J. Lo to use the derivative "nigga" in her song I'm Real.

I have friend who is very active in his Indian tribe. One of their pet peeves is the term "Native-American," which the tribespersons claim was foisted on them by the government. They'd much prefer to be known as "Indians." And how ridiculous is the term "tribesperson?"

Ousted American Idol Frenchie isn't fat, she's "plus size." You didn't just get laid off, you were "deselected," like a bruised piece of fruit @ a produce stand. The list goes on.

Euphemisms are ever more pervasive in common discourse. They are used to mask odious realities, to mislead or to cloud issues. Arguably, their only real utility is to spare feelings. Thus, on balance, I'd argue that these terms should be banished from the language.

That said, I'd be interested to hear your favorites.

comments (15)

Oh, this is going to be fun...

by LOCKHEED at June 6, 2003 8:24 PM

"Me Chinese, me play joke---" I mean, me Oriental, I mean me, Asian American, no actually I mean, I don't have the Brown University luxury of bickering over or even getting in some NAACP/Leftist/Feminist/hippie/PC uproar over euphemisms, I'm too busy working hard and not trying to get a free lunch. ACTUALLY, I'm not going to get started on fruitless tirades with Blind, Kneejerk Reactionists(faggot bandwagon luxury of being idealist usually suburbanite neo-hippies), I don't want to spoil the weekend, um, I'll just wait to see other comments.

by LOCKHEED at June 6, 2003 8:36 PM

DUDE, why are you using "@" when you mean "at"? (And all of a sudden, too.) That isn't incorrect grammar... it's just retarded.

by Eviltom at June 6, 2003 9:36 PM

Lock, I'm afraid you'll have to wait. From what I've seen, people visit this site on weekends but they act as if commenting would involve contracting an STD.

Eviltom, I have to agree. That was just one more annoying thing I decided to do for no apparent reason.

by anna at June 6, 2003 9:57 PM

Lo and behold I wake up to find the word "Negro" on Washingtonpost.com's Style section. Turns out that Lawrence Fishburn's role as God in "Bruce Almighty" was just another example of Hollywood employing its "Magic Negro" ruse. This supposedly dates back to Sidney Poitier carrying the cross for Jesus in 1943's "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

by anna at June 7, 2003 8:50 AM

You write about the importance of words. I take issue with the choice of words "abortion enthusiasts." As you say, essentially everyone is "pro-life." People who think abortion should be available understand it's a hard decision and still believe babies should be born. They are hardly "abortion enthusiasts" pushing people into getting rid of their children.

It is possible to say for a woman to say that she personally would never choose to have an abortion because she feels it would be wrong but for that same woman not to wish to impose her beliefs on others. I don't think that's equivalent to favoring abortion - I think it's equivalent to thinking the choice should be available. Hence, since we're talking word selection (and not our opinions about abortion, per se, apart from how they are conveyed by word choice), "pro-choice" and "anti-choice" seem appropriate.

by blue at June 7, 2003 11:46 AM

Hmmm, that's not bad. Pro-choice and anti-choice are pretty neutral. And no I don't believe there really are people who are all gaga over abortions. But I have read that in Russia, it's not uncommon for women to have several in their lifetimes.

by anna at June 7, 2003 12:02 PM

The problem with "pro" and "anti" choice is that, usually, people associate something that is "pro" with something that is good. "Pro" leads to "positive," which leads to "good." Therefore, "anti" would lead to "bad." Obviously, this is not always the case, but for some reason, I think that those who oppose abortion would not like the term "anti-choice." I think that's why both terms now in use are "pro" terms. Furthermore, since as you pointed out, we all make choices, saying someone is "anti-choice" is seems to me to be saying that someone is in favor of having all decisions dictated to him/her. (Before you ask, I don't really have a problem with abortion being legal.) I think you're right in saying that "choice" and "life" are both poor word choices. As for the rest of your post, I agree that PCness has gotten out of control. People these days are offended too easily, and that's the problem.

by hazeleyes at June 7, 2003 9:52 PM

I don't think people get offended easily, I think people in general just like to bitch.

by MrBlank at June 8, 2003 11:34 PM

As I understand it partial birth abortion is in itself a red herring for discussing abortion - as it is of the most extreme of medical procedures used only under dire circumstances. The actual numbers are rarely quoted, and why legislators waste time discussing and inflaming a specific procedure with all the medical authority of doctors is beyond me.

Words are like pixels trying to express an image at low resolution. Remember the tanks in the Atari 2600? The trick is to see the idea lying underneath. This is what makes the mainstream media news so difficult to listen to - when you can tell that a given set of words is being used to mangle or manipulate an idea, under the pretense of appearing completely objective. (Gosh if only Colin Powell's son could see that the angel of public interest has been buzzing around his head this entire time).

Political correctness, badly named from the start, arose in response to something real - an attempt to remove inherent bigotry within the language that was becoming out dated as people become more enlightened. So even if the road to hell is in fact paved with good intentions - that's no excuse for throwing out good intentions. I think it's possible to be PC without being PC (I've always felt that the term PC is a contradiction in terms), and it doesn't even depend on what the meaning of the word is is.

by chris at June 9, 2003 1:11 PM

I left out the most distressing aspect of the vote on PBA (which passed by an overwhelming majority and will soon be signed into law.) Many expect lots of totally unnecessary hysterectomies to be performed as a substitute for it. How's that for "pro-life?" And how come reliable statistics on the frequency of late-term abortions aren't available?

Similarly I saw two "experts" (hired guns) jousting on CNN about malpractice awards. One said they've doubled over the last ten years. The other said the amounts are going down rapidly. Both claimed that "the data" supported their (clients') positions. How are you supposed to make any sense of that? Like euphemisms, they used what should be verifiable "facts" to cloud the issue.

And that's why it's so hard to make up your mind about anything these days. But I'm pretty sure I support abortion rights so long as the fetus isn't readily viable outside the womb. Surprised, Blue?

by anna at June 9, 2003 6:01 PM

If I were raped, I'd like to have the choice of aborting. If men were able to get pregnant, I'd think the issue would be vastly different. In fact, there would be no issue. As for this post, I guess it's turned into a 'there's a pubic hair on my coke' topic. Well...my grudges and spite for socioeconomic issues no longer embolden me like they once did, they simply eat away at me, weaken me. Common courtesy is the only valid virtue when it comes to speech, I love New York City, but I hate the people here, all of them, the Jews, the Negros, the Wasps, the Italians, the Asians, the PuertoRicans, the dykes, the faggots, the poor, the rich, the Lockheeds... ah, it's going to be a long hot summer... and I better save money.

by LOCKHEED at June 9, 2003 8:43 PM

Partial birth abortions are less than 1% of all abortions, not legal in all states, and are only used when the mother's health is endangered (although mental health is included in this sometimes). Interesting issue: an article I read recently talked about pro-lifers fighting for the rights of the embryos that are not used in fertility clinics because conception = life, whether it occurs in a petri dish or a uterus. Hmmm.

by Shannon at June 11, 2003 12:44 PM

Immaculate conception is a form of rape. Suppose the so-called Virgin Mary had aborted Jesus. Y'all would have had to find another fool willing to die for your sins and shortcomings.

by God at June 11, 2003 6:46 PM

That's an interesting way of looking at it. However, I think that the Jews were just waiting for the Messiah to be born then, so it was sort of a possibility whenever the women got knocked up. The Bible doesn't mention whether God zapped away Mary's morning sickness, stretch marks, sore back and feet, or labor pains, or whether He helped her lose the extra weight afterwards, or kept baby Jesus from waking up every couple of hours in the night, though. MEN!

by jean at June 12, 2003 12:03 AM

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