Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Nicked by a Name

The Christian Science Monitor offers a fascinating--at least in the sense that it gives me something to write about, and your eyes are here, so what else do you have to do?--story about Brazil's battle to go P.C.:

Throughout Latin America, a person is as likely to be described by his skin color or girth as someone elsewhere might be called tall or smart or gregarious. A word that in the US could provoke a fistfight or a court case is often just a personal identifier here.

Now Brazil is making its first forays into changing this. Last year the government quietly issued an 87-page document entitled "Political Correctness and Human Rights," which listed 96 words and phrases it hopes will eventually become unacceptable.

Far be it for this blog to question the 96 tears spilled over these words in Brazil. After all, we live in a more civilized society in the U.S. Gone are the days of demeaning baseball nicknames like Dummy Hoy, Rube Waddell and Zane "Fugly" Smith. The best we have now is Antonio "El Pulpo" Alfonseca, who gets called an octopus because he has 6 fingers. I promise that's not pulpo fiction.

The Brazilians might be trying too hard to dull the pointed stick of so much of their language. For the report claims:

The challenge is formidable: introducing P.C. terms bucks years of tradition and cultural norms. And the government may have undercut its own efforts, prompting ridicule earlier this month when word spread that the list included words such as "clown" and "drunk" that it said could offend comedians or tipplers.

I, for one, wouldn't stand for being called "a drunken clown." Most likely I would be sitting, or perhaps even prone at that point in the evening, anyway. Well, most likely it would be evening.

Gee, this word stuff is hard.

And even harder in Brazil, because:

The vagaries of the Portuguese language (and Spanish in Hispanic America) complicate the process. The impact of sensitive words can be reduced by using the diminutive forms of nouns. By adding "-inho" for the masculine or "-inha" for feminine softens a word and gives it an affectionate, less-threatening feel.

In America, you still might be the victim of road rage for yelling, "Hey assholinho!" at the guy who just cut you off on the freeway. Not to mention back in the day I'm pretty sure the code word for the White House staff when Bill was busy with Monica was, "Clintoninho."

Nonethless, it seems the current White House is planning its own "Political Correctness and Human Rights" pamphlet. Included in the early drafts as banned words are "liar," as it might offend those who don't tell the truth or occupy the Oval Office, and "advice and consent," as it implies the President gives a damn what anyone else thinks. Finally, the list also prohibits any puns on bug exterminator, as the roach lobby has been swarming over Congress of late.


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