This column was originally written in 2009.
I am a loyal fan of the Carl and Marty show on KONY radio station, from St. George, Utah. On a recent program they were talking about an event called Redneck Games that took place at this year’s Washington County Fair. They were really hamming it up; speaking with exaggerated Southern drawls, using words and phrases that I grew up hearing. I was having a good ole time – listening and loving every minute of their banter. Then, the conditioning of all the years that I spent as part of California’s Corporate Culture kicked in; thoughts of political correctness crept into my mind - Will they get complaints and angry e-mails? Is it still considered politically correct to joke about Rednecks? Being the granddaughter, daughter, and ex-wife of rednecks, I hope that it is.
I have always considered teasing and pokin’ fun to be a sign of affection. I just don’t get this need to avoid using any word of phrase that might offend anyone’s sensibilities. I was raised to respect my elders, not hurt anyone’s feelings – on purpose; not speak untruths, and to apologize when I offended.
Surely, it is wiser to speak freely and apologize if you offend than to severely stifle your natural vocabulary. I fail to understand what benefit can be derived from being constantly on guard lest a politically incorrect word escape your lips. Is my slow, southern, redneck background showing or do I have a valid point here?
I comprehend the Merriam-Webster definition of political correctness: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated. I have a copy of Urban Dictionary, by Aaron Peckham; I have read it and highlighted some of the more interesting entries: 1) A way that we speak in America so we don't offend whining sissies. 2) A powerful form of censorship. 3) Movement in America founded on well-meaning intentions to promote equality in language. However, this has now been oversimplified and misused by politicians in their attempt to win the favor of as many "minority" and interest groups as possible. 4) A method of controlling and dictating public speech and thought. 5) The use of the word “American" to describe the United States is being written out of U.S. History and Government textbooks for fear of it being "politically incorrect" and offensive to South Americans and Canadians.
The entry in Urban Dictionary that best sums up how I feel about the topic is: The struggle to be "politically correct" has made common people easily irritable and oversensitive to the words of others and their own words. It has created a society that walks on eggshells and that has difficulty being personal with each other because co-workers and potential friends can't joke around for fear of offending the other.
Unfortunately, the only two things I have gotten from all this reading and thinking about political correctness is a headache and the belief that there is no general agreement as to what being politically correct is all about.
I long for the days when family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers understood and accepted each other’s quirks and we could speak freely – with no fear of reprimand or accusation.
Life was more fun before society became so sensitive - no, make that paranoid – and before people took offense to almost everything and wasted time challenging each word or phrase that was uttered or printed. I fondly remember when teasing, pokin’ fun, and being a little raunchy were not considered mortal sins; back when the use of words with double meanings, the ability to twist a phrase, and make a play on words were considered witty.
I well remember the fun, my African-American friend (see, I can be politically correct), Jim Moore and I entertained customers at a sing-a-long bar with a duet of Me and My Shadow. The audience gave us rousing ovations and requested encores; today, we would likely be kicked out or worse.
How can any rational person consider it acceptable for a Stanford Professor to publically accuse University administrators of being sexist in their selection of a title for a course offered at that University – the course title was History. The professor lectured that with all the great minds at Stanford, surely one of them could come up with a name that didn’t include a male pronoun - just goes to show that intellect and education doesn’t preclude stupidity. I champion the person who suggested that the professor refuse to eat chocolate until the name Hershey bar was changed to Himhe bar or, to be politically correct It-it bar, another person became a heroine of mine when she asked if the title History was politically incorrect, should she begin referring to first year students as freshpersons?
I was floored when I read that the Mayor of Washington DC, Anthony Williams, who is African-American, requested and accepted the resignation of a white staff member, David Howard, who had used the term “niggardly” in a staff meeting. This incident is a perfect example of how our elected representatives demonstrate their own ignorance. Does the Mayor not know that the term niggardly is defined as grudgingly mean about spending or granting – stingy, or that the word originated in the 1300’s; from the words “nigg” (an ancient Scottish - 8th century - carved stone ) and “ignon” meaning “Miser.” In no way can this word be construed as a racist comment. But, the poor guy lost his job anyway.
If I offend you, please tell me and I’ll be careful not to repeat the offence when you are present; but, please avoid lecturing me on being politically correct. ‘Cause that’s gonna insult my Redneck roots, get me all riled up, and y’all might hear politically incorrect words, the likes of which, you ain’t ever heard before.