Word Police

Washington State has taken another step in its effort to out-nanny New York State. The word police are out in full force to make sure the state legislature becomes totally gender neutral. Words such as “fireman” and “policeman” were found to be offensive and banned from the legislature as far back as 1983, but that was not enough.

In this latest effort, terribly offensive words such as “freshman” and “watchmen” have been eliminated, protecting all from serious injury. However, new ground is being broken with the elimination of not-so-obviously offensive words such as “penmanship”.

How could we have survived so long being bombarded by these harmful words? We are finally coming out of the semantic Dark Ages that have been “keeping our legal terms anachronistic” and replacing them with neutered words that “respect our current contemporary times”.  It’s a shame our intelligence doesn’t get such respect.

Liz Watson, a National Women’s Law Center senior adviser, tells us: “Words matter…This is important in changing hearts and minds.” Ahhh…”changing hearts and minds” – how quaint – or should we say anachronistic?

In an attempt at preventing the word police from banging down your door, it would be wise to refrain from using several other words that may soon be found to be offensive: mandolin, Mandella, German, humane, mention, manager, and so many (oops, there’s another one) more. The list is endless and it may become necessary to hire more word police, but that would at least help lower unemployment.

One has to wonder, though, why “mandate” is not yet on the list since it’s already been replaced with “tax” by the Supreme Court.

David J. Hentosh

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