Recently I read an article where the word “gypped” was used. A reader pointed out it’s not polite to say “gypped” just as it would be impolite to say “jewed”. Now I, for one, had never questioned where the word gypped had originated. And, if I’m honest, I actually thought it was spelt jipped. But, apparently, it is a reference to Gypsies being sneaky & thieving, hence the use of the word to mean ripped off.
I prefer not to offend people, if I can, and therefore I immediately took note of this handy fact and made a mental note not to say gypped again.
Then I thought about it and I realised, the list of words I can no longer say is quickly becoming longer. It wasn’t too long ago I described something as being retarded, and was told the r-word is a bad word and we can’t use it. This caught me by surprise a little as the context was not as slander, but as a description (e.g. That tree is retarded). And despite my arguing that the tree was, in fact, a tree that had experienced an abnormality in development and therefore it was retarded, I was corrected and informed it’s extremely offensive and again, I was happy to comply.
I am also happy to avoid describing things as “gay” lest it offend and avoiding the use of the word “cunt”, although apparently “dick” is still OK, despite both actually being words to refer to genitals. I also avoid “fat”, “skinny” and “old” as these words can come with bad connotations and therefore it’s safer to avoid them altogether.
It got me wondering, though. How politically correct is too politically correct? Will it not be long before someone tells me I am unable to use the word “lame” to describe something as it’s offensive to those who can’t walk? Will we ban calling something “rubbish” as it might be offensive to trash cans? (OK, that was silly, trash cans don’t have feelings… Sorry, Oscar) But seriously – how far should we go?
What is it that gives words this power? We obviously know not to use certain words, and I’m hesitant to even refer to let alone write the n-word in there (so I won’t write it) but words have become exceedingly powerful. Both for good, and for bad. Even when they mean exactly the same thing as something else, like ‘shit’ being more offensive than ‘poo’.
How far is too far? And could using them more often actually remove their power?
What do you think? Have we become too politically correct?