Word Police

In France, the government said it will enforce a 1991 law banning the promotion of commercial enterprises on news programs to stop the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ from being spoken on television or the radio. The word police are on the march.

It is not clear why these words have been singled out as offensive to the French government, but it is clear that the door is opening for more restrictions. This not only endangers free speech, it endangers the dynamic growth of language. Unwritten “rules” of Political correctness have already put a crimp on the usage of many legitimate words. Now, it is becoming governed by law.

There are many words in common usage that started as registered trademarks and have legally been declared descriptive words by the courts. These include commonly used words such as: Brassiere, cellophane, escalator, corn flakes, linoleum, trampoline, and zipper.

Other words that are still legally considered registered trademarks have made their way into everyday usage in spite of company’s efforts to keep them protected. Some of these include: Band-aid, baggies, Popsicle, Velcro, dumpster, Kleenex, Magic marker, Q-tip, Walkman, Laundromat, post-it note, Frisbee, teleprompter (imagine this one eliminated), iPod, super glue, Scotch tape, and many more.

If all these commonly-used words were eliminated from newscasts, the very act of communicating would be hampered. Language is like a living entity, growing and changing over the years. Legally governing its growth can only do damage to communication and, as with most legislation, end up being used as a political tool.

It is not hard to imagine enforcement of this type of legislation in France finding its way onto our shores. Attempts have already been made here to stop the usage of the word “Obamacare” for political purposes, and it isn’t even a registered trademark. Political correctness has forced far too many legitimate words out of common usage. Legally restricting the use of more words is not something to embrace. It is something to fight against.

David J. Hentosh


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