P.C. politics

Henry Beard & Christopher Cerf

July 15, 1992|By Henry Beard & Christopher Cerf

THESE are the Be-Sensitive-or-Else '90s and the language the candidates have used to discuss -- or avoid discussing -- the issues has been far more explicit than it needs to be.

(Witness Ross Perot's "your people" foray before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last week.)

Here, then, in honor of the conventions, is a glossary of bias-, cruelty-, gender- and content-free speech the candidates can use to ensure that their future utterances are politically politically correct.

Acid rain. Poorly buffered precipitation.

Adultery. Consensual non-monogamy.

The aging. Chronologically gifted persons; experientially enhanced individuals.

Boring speech. Differently interesting address; charm-free oration.

Cliche. Previously enjoyed sound bite.

Corrupt. Ethically different; morally challenged.

Drug addicts and alcoholics. The sobriety deprived; people of stupor.

Education. Our "education president" and his rivals should note that America's school children are not "failing" -- they're merely "achieving a deficiency."

High school dropouts should now be called "individuals with provisionally unmet educational objectives."

Homeless. Underhoused; involuntarily undomiciled.

"Homeless" must be discarded because it fails to stress the role of society in depriving individuals of a place to live.

A Long Island teacher, quoted in U.S. News & World Report, prefers "houseless" because, as she informed a group of local street people, "home is wherever you are."

(Note: In order to avoid creating the impression that they consider the underhoused somehow inferior to those who happen to live in buildings, the candidates should occasionally refer to those who own or rent houses and apartments as the "non-vagrant homed.")

Hunger. Nutritional shortfall; caloric insufficiency.

Lie. Categorical inaccuracy; counterfactual proposition; strategic misrepresentation; terminological inexactitude.

Lobbyist. Legislative leadership advocate.

Looters. Non-traditional shoppers.

Panhandlers. Unaffiliated applicants for private-sector funding.

Sadomasochists. The differently pleasured (a useful phrase for criticizing a PBS program such as "Tongues Untied" without offending individuals with alternative lifestyles).

Toxic Waste Dumping. Deep-ocean storage.

In "1984," George Orwell wrote, "When Newspeak [is] adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought [will] be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words."

Besides, it's a lot easier and cheaper to change our language than it is to eliminate the problems that plague our nation.

We're confident, therefore, that the candidate who uses our politically politically correct lexicon as a guide can not only win in November but also create a less oppressive linguistic environment in the United States and -- to quote a recent press release from the New York State Social Studies Review and Development Committee -- "the peoples who person it."

Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf are the co-authors of "The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook."

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