Back in the olden days, before Political Correctness galloped in on its white charger to churn up the turf with razor-sharp hooves that waved in all directions with intimidating imprecision… Back in those days when we were apparently all too stupid to know when we were being offensive, having a conversation or expressing an opinion was relatively simple. These days it’s a minefield of convoluted language and unintended slights.
Don’t get me wrong here. In certain areas, things had to change, and while ideally it would be nice to think that respectful language grew naturally from a respectful society, that was never going to happen fast enough, and changing the language first at least drew attention to the problem. But as so often happens, we got the bit between our teeth and joined the circus.
See, back in my youth, I could say ‘mankind’ – or even ‘man’ – and nobody had the vapours. They knew what the word meant. Everybody knew what the word meant. It didn’t occur to them that this word denoting the human race did so to the exclusion of its female half. So if we all knew and accepted that without a second thought, why did we have to mess with it? Why did we have to make it into a thoroughly clumsy mouthful like ‘humankind’, or ‘personkind’ – which, let me tell you, is a right cow (or should I say cow/bull) if you’re trying to use it in a scanned verse.
And what was wrong with ‘chairman’? Again, it was accepted as a word in its own right, for goodness sake – ‘the person presiding’, regardless of gender. Until the PC police stormed in and accused us of all sorts of evil discrimination we’d never thought of.
Then we get to the whole he/she or they business.
It makes me very tired.