'Official Politically Correct Dictionary' satirizes all kinds of doublespeak

July 08, 1992|By Michael Oricchio | Michael Oricchio,Knight-Ridder News Service

SAN FRANCISCO -- Frankly and francinely, you'd have to be cerebrally challenged, ethically disoriented or emotionally different to deny the effect that appropriately inclusive language and behavior has had on the environs of Turtle Island.

Confused? Well, join the club.

Now, if you had a copy of "The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook" (Villard Books, $10) by Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, you'd know what we were really saying was that frankly, you'd have to be stupid, dishonest or crazy to deny the effects of the politically correct movement on the American people ("Turtle Island" was what the indigenous peoples called North America before the Europeans showed up).

These days it seems everybody's watching not only what they say, but what everybody else says. Heaven forbid someone somewhere should say or do something that through some stretch of the imagination could be construed as racist, sexist, classist, elitist, ageist, weightist, ableist, speciesist, borealocentrist or whatever other 'ist pops up. Given that, it was only a matter of time until someone decided to spell it all out for us. Thankfully, Mr. Beard and Mr. Cerf did it for laughs.

"The thing that makes this so easy to parody is that no one has a sense of humor about it," says Mr. Cerf, the 50-year-old son of Random House founder Bennett Cerf, on a recent trip to talk about the new book (or to be more politically correct, the recently published processed tree carcass).

"When you see the effort made to tyrannize people through language, you need to respond to it. What we respond to is the fact that these words are ridiculous. But the motives behind these words are not ridiculous," says 47-year-old Mr. Beard.

Using the text (the proper post modernist term for anything that conveys information) is simplicity itself.

Part One is a dictionary of politically correct terms. For example, you'd find that someone who is "charm-free" is boring. Part Two is a translation of politically incorrect terms into more culturally sensitive ones. Someone you consider fat is really "horizontally challenged."

Right-wing doublespeak also gets its due in the final section, a glossary of Bureaucratically Suitable (BS) language.

There's "health alteration" for murder. "Counterfactual proposition" for lie. And don't forget the ever-popular "controlled flight into terrain" for airplane crash.

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