Monday, December 10, 2012

PC police hit Santa 'Down Under'

My column from Nov. 24, 2007.  I was tickled when my editor let me get away with the headline, which he called the best he had seen all year.

The use of politically correct speech or labeling language as politically incorrect has haunted us for a few decades now. Some changes to the way we use the English language are for the better, and some border on
the ridiculous.
On the off chance that someone is not familiar with the terminology, politically correct describes language, ideas, policies, or behavior that is used to try to avoid offense to identity groups. Politically incorrect is used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense.
I usually appreciate the trend to have more gender equality in language, but draw the line when people want to make a substitution like “herstory” in place of history.
Calling a member of the fire department a firefighter rather than a fireman makes sense to me, as firefighter more accurately describes what his or her role is. Chairman has been replaced by chair or chairperson, the old-fashioned hairdresser has been replaced by hair stylist, and secretaries are now assistants. Blind and deaf have been replaced by visually challenged and hearing impaired. People are not handicapped anymore, they are physically challenged.
I don’t see the point of calling someone “economically unprepared” when poor or low-income would work just as well, or “alternatively schooled” instead of illiterate. Humorous attempts at political incorrectness swap vertically challenged for short and follically challenged for bald.
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote an excellent column about how calling something politically incorrect often is a cover for a phrase or word that is just wrong.
“Language should let you say what you mean,” wrote Pitts. “But if what you mean is mean-spirited, we ought not diminish that by calling it simply ‘politically incorrect.’”
So, while politically correct language serves a purpose, society needs to draw a line somewhere.
Recently, Australia was in the news because the trend to be politically correct has run amuck in the land Down Under.
The PC police there have gone too far. They’ve gone after Santa.
Those who leave treats for Santa Claus and hang stockings to be filled should remember that Santa is a very busy guy this time of year. Getting ready for Christmas is a full-time job, so he delegates his public
appearances to doppelgangers who help him spread the Christmas spirit.
This is why an Australian company supplies over 550 Santa Clauses to shopping centers and other venues in that country. This organization has gotten some bad press because of reports that it trained its Santas
to replace “ho, ho, ho” with “ha, ha, ha.”
It would seem that the traditional Santa greeting is considered politically incorrect because “ho” could be offensive to women. I’ve never thought of it that way, and can’t imagine that any young child would understand what “ho” is a euphemism for.
A company representative said that the true reason it has asked Santa to use “ha, ha, ha” instead is because kids could get scared of a deep voice calling out “ho, ho, ho.”
Young children being freaked out during their first encounter with jolly, old St. Nick are common. Most families probably have video or photo coverage of a kid cringing or even screaming on poor Santa’s lap. It's a rite of passage, really.
Perhaps we should also come up with a new word to replace the one used for a garden tool for chopping off leaves. I’m sure Santa is having a big, fat belly laugh over the issue.
Santa’s troubles may not be over. The obesity epidemic may soon make Santa a target for the wellness police. They’ll want to give him an image makeover and have people leave him healthy snacks rather than milk and cookies. We may soon see a trim, buff Santa.
I think he would be justified in leaving lumps of coal if he doesn’t get his cookies.

No comments: