Here Come the Speech Police

Recently, I ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this:

“Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. These terms may upset some readers.”

Steel yourself, brave reader, here they are:

—Peanut gallery.

—Eenie meenie miney moe.

—Gyp.

—No can do.

The same grammarian who authored the piece had previously confronted the “deeply racist connotation” of the word “thug,” noting that President Donald Trump “wasn’t the least bit bashful” when calling Minneapolis rioters “thugs” in a tweet, despite the word’s obvious bigoted history. In 2015, President Barack Obama referred to Baltimore rioters as “thugs” as well. He likely did so because “thug” — defined as a “violent person, especially a criminal” — is a good way to describe rioters. It’s true that not everyone in a riot engages in wanton violent criminality. Some participants are merely “looters” — defined as “people who steal goods during a riot.” That word is also allegedly imbued with racist conations, according to the executive editor of The Los Angeles Times and others.

Attempting to dictate what words we use is another way to exert power over how we think. Few people, rightly, would have a problem with referring to the Charlottesville Nazis as “thugs.” Only the “protester” who tears down a Ulysses S. Grant statue or participates in an Antifa riot is spared the indignity of being properly defined.

The recent assaults on the English language have consisted largely of euphemisms and pseudoscientific gibberish meant to obscure objective truths — “cisgender,” “heteronormativity” and so on. Now, we’re at the stage of the revolution where completely inoffensive and serviceable words are branded problematic.

CNN, for instance, recently pulled together its own list of words and phrases with racist connotations that have helped bolster systemic racism in America. Unsuspecting citizens, the piece explains, may not even be aware they are engaging in this linguistic bigotry, because most words are “so entrenched that Americans don’t think twice about using them. But some of these terms are directly rooted in the nation’s history with chattel slavery. Others now evoke racist notions about Black people.”

CNN tells us the term “peanut gallery” — as in “please, no comment from the peanut gallery” — is racist because it harkens back to the days when poor and black Americans were relegated to back sections of theaters. Now, I hate to be pedantic, but “peanut gallery” isn’t “directly rooted” in the nation’s history of “chattel slavery.” As CNN’s own double-bylined story points out, the cliche wasn’t used until after the Civil War. For that matter, few of the words and phrases that CNN alleges are problematic are rooted, even in the most tenuous sense, in the transatlantic slave trade.

Not even the word “slavery,” which is a concept as old as humankind, is in any way uniquely American. Yet, last week, Twitter announced that it was dropping “master” and “slave” from its coding, to create a “more inclusive programming language.” Only in this stifling intellectual environment is striking commonly used words considered “inclusive.” Other tech companies are now “confronting” their use of these innocuous words to atone for their imaginary crimes.

We should feel no guilt using the word “master.” Her performance was masterful. She mastered her instrument. The score was a masterpiece. The composer was a mastermind. Even CNN concedes that “while it’s unclear whether the term is rooted in American slavery on plantations, it evokes that history.”

It’s not unclear, at all. The etymology of the word “master” is from the Old English and rooted in the Latin “magister,” which means “chief, director, teacher, or boss.” “Master’s” degrees were first given to university teachers in the 14th century in Europe.

Until a few months ago, the “master bedroom” evoked visions of the larger bedrooms, and the Masters Tournament evoked images of golfing legends like Tiger Woods, winner of four titles. Simply because the Nazis used the word “master” in their pseudoscientific racial theories — not in the 1840s, but in 1940s — doesn’t mean I am offended by the postmaster general. We’re grown-ups here, and we can comprehend context.

Or we used to be.

Honestly, I’m disappointed that CNN missed the commonly used “blackmail” — a word that appears in 439 stories on their website. The phrase was first used to describe protection money extracted by mid-16th-century Scottish chieftains. Maybe it’s the Scots who should be offended.

In and of itself, depriving Americans of “eenie meenie miney moe” — a phrase with an opaque and complicated history — isn’t going to hurt anyone. Allowing ideological grievance-mongers to decide what words we’re allowed to use, on the other hand … well, no can do.

“If thoughts can corrupt language, language can also corrupt thoughts,” Orwell famously wrote. Every time some new correct-speak emerges, CNN and all the media will participate in browbeating us into subservience. Progressive pundits will laugh off concerns about the Orwellian slippery slope. If we allow the seemingly innocuous attempts to control words and thoughts go uncontested, more-nefarious control will be a lot easier in the future.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer at National Review and the author of the book “First Freedom: A Ride Through America’s Enduring History With the Gun.” To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

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18 Responses

    1. No one is Ever going to tell me what words I can & not use. Grow up! Everything in life is not all good or all bad learn to deal with life. It is growing up. Roll with life it has ups & downs–GROW UP! Get a life. Too much time on your hands try volunteering to the less fortunate than you.

    2. Of course they are. When one wins a mouth fight, ALL of the LEFT thinks it must join, no matter how stupid they are and no matter how stupid they sound. We have criminals trying to gain ownership of this once great nation, the nation that grew better and better constantly……UNTIL the left showed its filthy covers….they DEMAND A WORTHLESS COUNTRY, POSSIBLY BECAUSE THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY REPRESENT.

    3. I’m glad I’m 80
      I was raised in a family that always voted Democrat, and I did as well, until Barack Obama
      entered our world. It was easy to see how he was going to change the culture of our country.
      I lived through World War II in northern California. My dad was a carpenter in the shipyards
      and my mom built depth chargers. I remember the blackouts and being afraid.
      Today I am a 100% service connected disabled veteran, but no longer afraid, I will defend the
      USA here on our own soil if the need arises. The time to take a stand is now.
      Here is where I see our world and our culture going if the Democrat party gains control. That
      must not happen. Get out and VOTE.
      The downfall of the American Culture
      Yesterdays Brownshirts are todays Black Hoods
      • Removal of GOD (Happening now)
      • Removing guns from private ownership (happening now)
      • Defunding police (Happening now)
      • Defunding Military: Obama style
      • Rationing food & gas (limit one each. We manufacture nothing, happening
      • now)
      • Arrest anyone that defends his or her property
      • Destroy and rewrite history
      • Burn books

      • Obama: Black & Muslim
      • Executive Branch: Black Lives Matter
      • Congress: Muslim
      • Law enforcement: MS 13 Gang
      • Education: Socialism/Marxism
      • Banking controlled by Democrat Billionaires
      • Religion: Islamic/Quran
      Depending how old you are, does any of this ring a bell? Is history going to repeat itself? Are
      the German Nazis going to return under the Black Hoods?
      HOW DID WE GO FROM? PATRIOTISM to HATE
      Career Politicians. We need term limits
      Our public officials & our elected politicians are only focused on being re-elected. There are
      some really great Democrats that I would love to vote for, however, if I vote for any democrat
      it is just a vote for Nancy Pelosi. She controls everyone & everything in the House. There are
      also some Republicans I would not vote for, but that choice has been taken away from me.
      Can you just imagine what would happen if:
      • White people started banning books written by black authors?
      • We started pulling down or defacing Martin Luther King Jr. Statues
      • We removed from history books the stories of any prominent black person
      who helped shape our nation’s culture?
      What type of person would do such a thing?
      What would happen if white people started a group called: White lives matter more
      (WLMM)? I suspect all hell would break loose and white people would be called Racist. (Wait
      that is already happening). It is not true, but white people would be looked upon as
      individuals that hate people of color.
      And yet we are expected to just sit back and let our USA go to hell. It’s not going to happen.
      Sooner or latter we will fight back.
      In 1970 Kris Kristofferson wrote “Help me make it through the night”. Little did he know
      that the meaning in his song could easily be applied to today’s world. In this song are the
      words “Yesterdays dead and gone and tomorrow is out of sight”.
      HOW TRUE
      May god bless you and keep you safe
      I approve this message because I wrote it. (Ron Quillen)

  1. Those of old enough to remember watching the “Howdy Doody” show on TV back in the early 1950s will recall that the kids at the show (mostly white but a few mixed) st in what Buffalo Bob, the MC, and guests all called the “PEANUT GALLERY”! I charge anyone trying to find racism in the use of “Peanut Gallery” with having a fixation on race that is extremely petty and short-sighted and reflects gross ignorance of History! If one tries hard enough, they will find something to be offended about and these misguided individuals have really searched long and hard to find something that offends them! They have race on their minds nearly 100% of the time and I charge them as racists!

  2. I will say what I choose to say to anyone I choose to speak to, given that today’s Americans language has already been destroyed except to a precious few who are educated and have BRAINS. It is not the media, nor the government, nor one’s neighbor to be dictating how others speak. I, too, donot care hearing the nastiest of languages, ergo, I leave that person talking to himself. …or I tolerate it, then I merely say adios and leave.

    People who cannot take care of their own selves are WORTHLESSLY TRYING TO DICTATE TO EVERYONE ELSE. GET REAL, YOU IDIOTS WHO ARE DETERMINED TO PRETEND TO BE GOD. YOU HAVE NO INKLING RE WHAT, WHO AND WHERE IS GOD. Many of us are tuned into God and while we would like to have others join us, they will not and that is THEIR own punishment. God bless all decent people.

  3. I am so pissed my head is going to explode. The three stooges famous line is banned? OMG just when you thought your heard it all. America now is not the America I grew up in I am 66 years old.

    1. Your right Patti, the party on the left has completely given in to letting people tell them what to think, do, and cooperate. The dumbest is the country right now is absolutely insane

  4. The more they get the more they want should be stopped before there is nothing more them to get. Whith nothing more to get, they still want more, like pumping water out of a dry well. Appeasing outlaws must STOP and STOP NOW while there is still something left. Arrest all of the trouble makers including those in high office. If the prisons are filled beyond capacity put them into FEAS camps. Stop the troublemakers and stop the trouble. Many of them are nothing but animals so why not treat them accordingly?

  5. Frankly, I would like for each one of these idiots to be relegated to the peanut gallery. They are trying to gyp me out of my favorite phrases. I thought about suggesting a basic language camp for each one but nah…no can do. They can just sit in that peanut gallery and play eenie, meenie, minie, moe with their two-page dictionary until hell freezes over.

  6. I remember when my friends and I would play “eenie, meenie, miney moe” to see who got to sit in the “peanut gallery” at the movies. If Barry lost he always said it was a “gyp”. He would pester whoever won asking to switch places until he was told: “no can do”.
    I guess me and my 10-year-old friends were racist and didn’t even know it!! As usual, CNN is speaking of that they don’t comprehend. They need to be taken off the air

  7. This is just stupid! No one should be able to dictate another’s speech. There are much bigger problems in this world.

  8. People have lost their minds. If you are going to ban words, please ban mother f_____. Now that would be an improvement.

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