Column: Language “Buriers”

By Gino Diguilio

Last week, I was sitting in one of my classes when a discussion broke out about the correct way to address a gay couple. Many different, so-called acceptable words and phrases were thrown out from my classmates before the conversation began to get hostile. The disagreement between where the line was drawn between politically correct and something that was rude or offensive became blurred.

Thus, the question entered my train of thought. Is today’s culture becoming too politically correct? And with that, is it actually progressing us as a society, or actually regressing us, especially within the millennial generation?

Pretty deep stuff, right? It has become so normal for conversations to be completely altered by the adjustment of words or phrases to make sure that offensive language toward a particular group or person is removed. I challenge you to go one day without taking two to three seconds in a conversation to quickly think about what you are about to say and determine if it is politically correct or offensive. We all self-censor. Don’t worry, you are not alone.

It has been instilled into our brains that being cautious concerning our language is the correct thing to do when talking about particular groups or people to allow them to feel safe, wanted and accepted. Our culture has changed the meaning of derogatory words and phrases so drastically that we now may not even realize that we’re offending someone! But is that truly our fault? Was it our decision as a collective generation to decide what was going to be treated as offensive? No.

Jerry Seinfeld once expressed his concern about the millennial generation in an interview on ESPN Radio. Saying that the generation doesn’t even know what they are talking about and are so quick to throw out the phrases “that’s racist,” or “that’s sexist” or even “that’s prejudice.” And to be completely honest, I agree with him and even consider myself to be one of those young adults that occasionally use those. He even goes as far as saying he won’t do shows on college campuses anymore due to the fact that our generation does not think his jokes are funny because they aren’t politically correct.

Hearing that made me want to change my ways. No, I’m not saying be a bigoted idiot and purposely offend everyone around you, but I do want to see the world progress as a combined culture and not regress. My thought is that if we continue to become more and more afraid of offending people, soon, our society won’t be able to say anything at all.

So, whether you agree with me that we are becoming too politically correct, or you see where others are coming from, I urge you to take a look at your speech habits and make a decision. Are you freeing your mind and speaking openly but still attempting to not offend on purpose, or are you stifling your own expression out of the fear that some wayward phrase will crumble an eavesdropper’s psyche?

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