the shrinking language
Once upon a time there was a
woman womyn. She was a short, plump perfectly average looking womyn who lived in a small farm town a big city the mountains a town in America. She had a daughter named Molly who liked to play with dolls play Career Choice Barbie and a son named Michael, a strong, athletic an emotionally open boy.
And so would begin a benign little story about a family if the people who control our textbooks had their way.
Iíve finished reading The Language Police. I donít think a book has ever left me feeling so horrified. By trying to make our children pleasant little creatures living in a homogenized world, far left liberals are, in effect, dumbing our youth down and stripping away the English Language.
Steven Denbeste wrote a bit about this sort of thing yesterday and I emailed him with my thoughts on The Language Police (mistakenly thinking that I would be on blog vacation for the rest of the week and wouldnít be writing about it).
It's a tenet of some leftists that "free speech is censorship." For instance, criticism is censorship. Permitting all viewpoints equal time is censorship. And it's actually a principle espoused by some on the left that active censorship is a good thing in order to prevent censorship. (Yup! This was originally proposed by Herbert Marcuse in a book titled Repressive Toleration.)
Steven then says at the end of his post:
Orwell wrote his dystopian book  as a warning. America's leftists are using it as a training manual.
It's interesting to note that the quote that opens the second chapter of TLP is this:
Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year? -- George Orwell, 1984
The irony here is that it's normally the mantra of the left to complain that America has become an Orwellian society, and here they are making Orwell's words so very prescient.
Yes, our language is getting smaller, and we have the left to thank for that. Every year new lists crop up from the boiler rooms of liberal universities, where language cops hunker down and go through textbooks and pamphlets and tests, making sure that there is not a single word on any piece of paper that would make anyone feel slighted, confused, left out, insulted or put upon. And every year the list grows longer and our language - whether in our school systems or in the media - grows smaller.
In the back of TLP, there is a glossary of banned words, usages, stereotypes and topics. The reviewing committees that control what goes into our schools have deemed over 25 pages worth of words and phrases to be stricken from our vocabulary, "collated from various bias guidelines that editors, writers and illustrators use when preparing textbooks and tests." Lest you think this list is used just for schools, try reading through some newspapers and magazines to see how the shrinking of our language has crept into other facets of our lives as well.
Let's peruse the glossary, shall we? I'm just going to throw out a bunch of lists and phrases. With some of them, it will be apparent why they are banned. With others, it won't be so obvious. In fact, it will be beyond all reason.
Adam and Eve (replace with the phrase Eve and Adam to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females.) Backward country,Barbarian, Birth defect, Black (banned as adjective meaning evil), Bookworm, Coed, Courageous (banned as patronizing when referring to a person with disabilities), Crotchety, Dark Continent, Devil, Dissenter, Elderly, Fellowship (Friendship of the Ring, anyone?), Hell, Huts, Jungle, Man-made, Overcoming a disability, Sissy, Soda (regional bias), Snowman, Stickball (regional bias).
Do not compare humans to animals (e.g., swift as a deer)
Avoid stereotyped images and illustrations, such as females wearing aprons, mother vaccuming, women finding acheivement in motherhood, women as teachers, women in jobs with less power than men, men as capable leaders, men playing sports, men as lawyers, boys playing sports, mother comforting children, boys as curious, people of color as athletic, people of color sharing a common heritage such as dance or music, older people with gray hair, older people who are retired.
Avoid topics such as anthropomorphism in non-fiction, bodily functions, brand names, conflict with authority, crime, drugs, controversial people such as Malcom X, guns, fighting, winter holidays, bacon, butter, cake, coffee, pretzels, tea, whipped cream, blizzards, aspirin, cancer, natural catastrophes, fossils, divorce, Christmas, junk bonds, pregnancy, masks, magic, typhoons, sports, rats, mice, rap music.
And that was just a tiny sampling.
So what have we left? What possible story could you put on a test for reading comprehension that would avoid all of the above? What could you talk about in history or science textbooks?
When the language police get their way, we lose our history and language. We lose, as a whole, part of our culture. We revise history and make our world bland and one dimensional.
The left is supposed to be all about tolerance and accepting each other as
humanhumyn beings, yet by stripping away everything that makes us unique, we are doing just the opposite. The only way our children learn to accept people who are different from them - whether it be a religious, cultural or physical difference - is to learn about them. Now, thanks to liberals who think they know what's best for everyone, that won't happen. Because in their world, everyone is the same height and weight and lives in the same region in identical houses. There is no rich or poor, no fat or skinny, no black and white, no mountains or oceans. There's just a flat existence where descriptive words and phrases are silenced.
Orwellian, indeed. Welcome to our version of Newspeak.
[addendum: I know that the Religious Right is responsible for a good portion of banning words and whole books as well, and that will be a whole different essay when Banned Books Week approaches]