• Richard Lancaster

What’s All This Politically Correct Speak All About?


I don’t know how you feel about what all this politically correct speak is all about, but it leaves me totally bewildered. Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or just chatting over a cup of tea, you need to watch your Ps and Qs or someone will be on your case if you step over the line.

So where is the line, and what’s this politically correct speak anyway? One definition says it’s about not using language or actions that can insult or hurt people who are already experiencing disadvantage or discrimination, and I would have thought that most fair-minded Aussies would accept that.

But it’s how some of us interpret ‘language and actions’ that has me scratching my head. Here are two examples (out of hundreds) of what I mean. Changing the universal greeting of Happy Christmas to Happy Holiday in Australia because non-Christians might feel insulted. Travel to any non-Christian country in the world, and witness how they correctly and enthusiastically use greetings and activities to celebrate their holy days (and by the way, there are usually Christians and other minorities in those countries as well).

Secondly, the elimination in schools of the term blackboards, replacing it with chalkboards, because non-Caucasian people might be offended. The name Father’s Day is next on the chopping block. Its new name would be ‘Parents’ and Carers’ Day’ according to sources.

Recently, a middle-aged mother chatting to her thirtyish daughter was pulled up by her daughter for being racist for using the term ‘Indian-born’ when describing a lady unknown to the daughter. Surely if the term Indian-born had relevance to the conversation, using it should be okay! No, is the answer. What about a lady from India? No again say the PC! Too ethnic specific.

To put a cap on the subject, humorous author Michael Dowling takes a look at political correctness from a pet’s viewpoint. In his entertaining book Boosting Your Pet’s Self-Esteem he writes a chapter on the Pet Owners’ Speech Code. He takes the well-worn phrase ‘A Dog is Man’s Best Friend’ saying that it is an example of ‘speciesist’ speech. Progressively he takes that phrase through twists and turns, at one point determining that ‘Dog and Man are Best Friends’ cannot be used either, because it excludes other pet species, damaging their self-esteem. He finally pens the PC solution. ‘All species are best friends and no species are better friends than any other’.

Dowling says that terms like ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’ infers violence towards cats, and ‘has the cat got your tongue?’ stereotypes cats as thieves. Words such as catastrophe, cataclysm, dogmatic, jailbird, fishy and snaky are all politically incorrect; designed to discriminate against our pets and should be avoided in front of pets.


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