These days we have to be extremely careful when we write or speak. In fact, at times it seems as if we must communicate as if tip toeing through a veritable minefield of the dangerous misinterpretations of our words. Since many words and phrases can be construed or misconstrued as offensive, there is a heightened sensitivity to the use of language. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We certainly need to live in world where all people are treated with dignity and respect, and our use of language should reflect this ideal. Most of us would not intentionally offend a person from a different race, culture, or creed, but the problem today is that there is such a subsurface tension that rage occasionally erupts over anything that even remotely resembles the offensive. Where does this social extremism that condemns even ambiguous statements come from?
Things were not always this way. If we were to look deeper into the history of the English language, we would typically find outlandish words and phrases that debased women and members of other cultures. These expressions may not necessarily have been malicious in spirit in all instances, but they were certainly demeaning and ranged from the subtle to the intentional. Certainly, some of the phrases that were commonly printed then would be socially unacceptable to print today. For example, any representative sample of late Victorian literature will reveal misogynistic and racist remarks by contemporary standards.
In fairness to the Victorians, the world was going through a rapid state of change then, and England was leading the way. Part of the motivation behind the imperialistic ende...
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...winism dramatically changed the way many people thought then, our modern ideas of cultural diversity and gender egalitarianism have changed the way many people think today. Our modern language clearly reflects this change. We have come a long way in disregarding boldly offensive descriptions, to questioning the propriety of statements such as "You people." Some people have eager ears that are always ready to latch onto the next faux pas and have clenched fists that are ready to gaff their next victim. Therefore, a masked tension remains, but on a lighter note, the positive force that guides our present evolving world in which we are conscientiously laboring to temper our language with human dignity balances this tension. Yet, our language can only be truly dignified to the degree to which it preserves the dignity of all of whom it dares to describe.
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