The English language is highly (and unnecessarily) complex. What is it within our collective cultural mind that allows for us to have so many different words that all mean the same thing? Universities across the United States are trying to change the way that people speak by trying to remove some seemingly derogatory words and phrases from common language. One of the schools most noted for this is the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee with their campaign “Just Words?”. Other universities with similar campaigns are UC Davis, University of Maryland, and many others. The image is of one of the promotional items the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee uses for their campaign. it explains some of the words that the campaign wants to take out of our everyday language. For some people, these words are part of their everyday life and mean nothing more than the word “cat” “dog” and “friend” do. To them, some of these words have no emotional impact.
On one side of the argument these changes in common language are being used in order to create more welcoming and open environments for all types of people. On the other hand it is trying to keep people from speaking the way they choose by making certain words and terms “inappropriate”. This is like when some people don’t want you cursing around their young children because they deem that type of language “inappropriate”. To some, language like this is just how folks express themselves while to others it is an abomination of the devil.
The only way I can see this becoming mainstream enough to be effective is to get this message into the media. Which at this rate won’t be very popular considering the fact that much of mainstream culture (music, television, movies, etc) seems to portray violence, sex, substance abuse, and often negativity towards groups who don’t “fit in”. Also with terms like “swag” and “Y.O.L.O.” (you only live once) and “on fleek” (similar to on point, off the chain, well designed or well-groomed etc) it doesn’t seem like people really care about speaking properly or intelligently. Even the ever so common acronyms “OMG” and “LOL” fall into this category. These terms have invaded the language of the youth because they have only to do with fun and being young, not about caring for or respecting others.
Personally I agree with these ideas but not with the reasoning behind them. Using any term that is “politically correct” isn’t actually politically correct depending on what side of the politics you are on. It seems that this change in language can be seen as more of a manipulation of language to serve a higher purpose instead of to make our culture more community based than it currently is, at least in the way it is being implemented now. Instead these mindsets should be taken in order to establish an environment of respect for all groups of people as well as all individuals regardless of political affiliation, race, economic status, or sexual orientation because once a way of thought changes, the language used to express those thoughts soon follows suit.
If we want to change the way that our culture speaks, how do we get this message across to those who have not received post-secondary education nor have a desire to? Is this just another way to divide people in an attempt to further soften the way we speak about others? Now I will admit that changing the way we speak to and about others to a more respectful way is not at all a bad thing and though there is good motive, how can we follow through with this without increasing the divide between those who get a university education and those who do not?
What are your thoughts on the matter? Leave us some insight in the comments!
[Featured image shutterstock, uwd.edu] "Word Games" by Dragon Hope is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License based on a work at http://wp.me/p6VWlN-1tI