The politics of political correctness

Our obsession with political correctness has now led us to censorship of words. We now have to be diligent, almost paranoid, before we pen down a word or utter it.

Published: 24th July 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th July 2022 12:54 PM   |  A+A-

Parliament House, Monsoon session

Representational Image. (File | PTI)

Our obsession with political correctness has now led us to censorship of words. We now have to be diligent, almost paranoid, before we pen down a word or utter it. A Big-Brother-ish nightmare, where anything and everything we say is examined, dissected, evaluated, weighed, criticised, and we are rebuked and cancelled for it too. 

I mean, have you ever thought who are these people who keep mucking about and changing the meanings of words? Is it the mischief of a single individual, or a secret society of wordsmiths who meet every 50 years, change the meanings of words, and giggle and die? 

This week, a 50-page compilation of words was released by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, which certified certain words as unparliamentary. Words like jumlajeevi, Covid spreader, ashamed, abused, betrayed, hypocrisy, anarchist, corrupt, criminal, hooliganism, drama, eyewash, lie, and incompetent are among them.

While the honourable MPs rush and grab their copies of Wren & Martin to brush up on synonyms, here are a few to aid them in maintaining the sanctity and decorum of the temple of democracy. ‘Duplicity’ and ‘insincerity’ can be the new ‘hypocrisy’, while ‘incapable’, ‘inefficient’ and ‘inept’ substitute ‘incompetent’. How about replacing ‘betrayed’ with ‘fooled’, ‘gulled’, ‘bamboozled’ (this one I am sure Mr Tharoor will use), and ‘duped’.

A person with a ‘criminal’ record can be described as a ‘malefactor’ or ‘lawbreaker’. When MPs throw chairs in Parliament (we haven’t seen this in a long time) or party cadres resort to ‘fisticuffs’ on the campaign trail, we can refer to the incident as ‘disorderly behaviour’ instead of ‘hooliganism’. The word ‘corrupt’ can be replaced with ‘fraudulent’, ‘unethical’ and ‘untrustworthy’.

Taking the debate outside Parliament, we can also no longer use the word ‘psycho’. Even if the person has plunged a pencil right through your hand and is now threatening to pierce your eyeballs with a geometry compass… remember society will shun you if you call them ‘psycho’! Instead, choose acceptable words like ‘oddball’, or even the fancy ‘capricious’ as you sip on your Orange pekoe Darjeeling tea with a stiff upper lip while trying not to drool as the tea slips out from the corner of your mouth.

Some other words that we no longer can use are midget, retarded, and my favourite, homeless. Instead, say ‘someone who is experiencing homelessness.' I am sure the person already knows that they are ‘experiencing’ the phenomenon. Imagine going up to a homeless person and asking, ‘Sir, are you lost or experiencing homelessness?’ What do you think the answer would be? Frankly, it is not an amusement park ride that they are experiencing!

In the US, a midget (now a derogatory slur) is called a ‘little person’ or ‘person of short stature.' Now if I was one, I would kick the shins of every person (unable to reach the person’s face) who called me little. 
So remember, the next time you want to have a conversation with an elderly, alcoholic, homeless, crazy, fat person, you must refer to them as 'a senior, preposterous, adipose-harbouring person with a substance abuse disorder who is experiencing homelessness.'


Anirban Bhattacharyya

Author, actor and standup comic


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