I have finished my latest effort and it is now in the hands of my very capable editor. I am anxiously awaiting word from her as to whether or not I should trash the whole thing and start over or just make corrections. Ha! That was not meant to be a pun and I’m sure you didn’t take it as one unless you knew that my latest work was about the time I spent working in the Texas Correctional System (Prison System).
It’s weird about the way they call doing time in prison as serving a sentence in the correctional system or in a correctional institution. What does that mean anyway?
Lately, we have been hearing a lot about word and the meanings of words and how using certain phrases and/or terms to describe certain political leanings can make a difference.
If you adhere to the age-old thinking of the Bard, a rose by any name is still a rose. Hence, it doesn’t matter if we call it a rose or a skadeekindockin, it’s still the same thing. Still looks the same. Still smells the same and still has thorns.
But maybe Shakespeare’s way of looking at roses is not exactly the best way to think of how we use words and phrases. In today’s world, evil is still evil. In America, we have the freedom and luxury of arguing about semantics while people are dying ‘over there’.
We may call a war a police action, but people are still killing each other. Ask any Vietnam Veteran. We may call a short person ‘vertically challenged’, but he/she still can’t reach the top shelf.
Does it matter to a blind person if we call them visually challenged instead of blind? Does that make the handicap any less debilitating? No. No it doesn’t. It makes US feel better. It’s like sending flowers to a funeral. The flowers are not going to raise the dead. They’re not going to comfort the grieving. They will be admired by the less involved persons attending the viewing or the services. Some of them will check the cards and make mental notes of who did or did not send flowers or whose flowers were more or less expensive in order to have a little gossip to carry back to co-workers and family members.
These are petty things. What the politically correct movement really does is turn us into petty fools, believing that calling a rattlesnake a legally challenged lizard will make it somehow less inclined to bite us.
Who was it who said call a spade a spade? Somerset Maugham, Oscar Wilde? No and yes. Those two did use the phrase as did Charles Dickens. Oddly enough it seems that some ancient Greek fellow actually, supposedly mistranslated the words ‘fig’ and ‘trough’ as used by Plutarch into the word ‘shovel’, which by extension became ‘spade’. I grew up thinking that ‘spade’ used in the phrase ‘call a spade a spade’ referred to the black suit in cards called spades. And I was partially correct, since the spades on the cards were stylistic depictions of spades or shovels, the common earth-moving tool.
As the United States grew more politically correct and less concerned with the true intent behind words and the use thereof, I was scolded roundly for using the phrase ‘call a spade a spade’ because it was considered racist.
Racist? How so, I ask.
Because we (meaning civilized people of good taste and breeding) do not refer to African-Americans as spades anymore. It is a racial slur.
How so, I ask. I have never in my life referred to an African-American as a spade or a card!
Well, came the response, some people have.
Good Lord! If I can no longer call cards hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades… what shall I call them? Hearts, clubs, diamonds and African-Americans? Or should I call them cardiac musculature, discos, trapezoids and shovels? What if I called them loves, clovers, home-bases and tools? Or would that make me a sentimental Irish baseball-loving idiot?
Well, now I’m totally confused. I hope you get my meaning. (And I have absolutely nothing against sentimentality, Ireland, baseball fans or idiots.)