Problem

Discriminatory use of language


Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Demeaning expressions
Political incorrectness in use of language
Biased words and phrases
Prejudiced language
Linguistic insensitivity
Etymological crisis
Incidence:

A local government council in the UK in 1993 took measures to eliminate the function of "manager" from its workforce because of the discriminatory emphasis on "man" in that term as a class-ridden authoritarian title. In 1994 a local headmistress in the UK refused to allow primary school students to attend a charity presentation of Romeo and Juliet because it placed excessive emphasis on heterosexual love.

According to a contemporary Concise Dictionary of Slovak Language (1997), the word Gypsy has these additional meanings (apart from the Gypsy person and language): liar, wanderer, someone who looks like a Gypsy because of his dark complexion or affection, animal of a dark or black colour (horse, dog), Gypsy life is a wandering one, Gypsy blood means intemperate nature of someone, Gypsy roasted meat is one that is roasted into a dark colour. Gypsy used as a verb unambiguously means to lie. It is also common to say about someone that he is dirty as a Gypsy. It is interesting to see some synonymous words and phrases presented by major English dictionaries: social gypsy, restless vagabond, idle stroller, wanderer, tramper, outlandish, uncultivated, medicaster, Rosicrucian, man of straw, conjuror, juggler, motley fool, pantaloon, gypsy; jack-pudding, jack in the green, nomad, Arab, Wandering Jew, Hadji, in later times often applied to an adventurer in art or literature, of irregular, unconventional habits, questionable tastes, or free morals. (She was of a wild, roving nature, inherited from father and mother, who were both Bohemians by taste and circumstances. - Thackeray.) Peculiar explanation of the term Gypsy is supplied by an edition of Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary: "One of a vagabond race, whose tribes, coming originally from India, entered Europe in 14th or 15th century, and are now scattered over Turkey, Russia, Hungary, Spain, England, etc., living by theft, fortune telling, horse-jockeying, tinkering, etc. Not all of the common meanings are negative." The only clearly positive example is usage of Gypsy for someone who is affectionate, or cuddling. But also wandering nature, intemperate nature, and dark colour of a person or animal did not originally have pejorative and certainly not racist meaning.

In 1995, the White House faced a severe etymological crisis over the difference between "funk" and "malaise". The national debate was set off after president Clinton explained that a major part of his job involved "trying to get people out of their funk". Later he was forced to acknowledge that funk "was a poor choice of words".

Reduced By:
Language police
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
11.06.2018 – 12:38 CEST