Q. What do I have to watch out for with PC?


America is struggling with of the PC (Political Correctness) movement, a wide–ranging movement by various groups that attempts to free American English of terms that are derogatory, insulting or condescending. Proponents sometimes go too far in trying to change society by changing vocabulary, but some changes are appropriate and more polite. Let’s look at some areas where we should be aware that language is changing.

Political Correctness demands that we be careful not to discriminate against women by assuming that some occupations are specifically for men or for women. In this regard, we no longer use “fireman,” but “firefighter,” a term which includes both men and women. On airplanes, “stewardess” and “steward” have now been replaced with “flight attendant.” In law enforcement “policeman” and “policewoman” have been replaced by “police officer.” In business and academic circles, “chairman” and “chairwoman” are often replaced by “chair” or “chairperson.”

In a broader context, we do not use “girl” for a woman over high school age. In fact, some people insist on referring to high schoolers as “young women.” Similarly, we do not use “boy” for a male beyond high school years. The Japanese– English word bōi–san is “waiter” in English. Never refer to the waiter as “Boy.” In America, “boy” has been used as a derogatory term for black males. This is an insult and should never be used.