Correct may not mean right
I did not notice IT when I strolled into the kitchen a few mornings ago. My lovely wife, Grace, and my Aunt Toogie were sipping coffee at the breakfast table. Initiating pleasant conversation, I inquired, “So what are you gals up to today?” The rejoinder was a high-pitched siren, BLAAH! The noise came from the ‘it’ - a battery operated air horn, like one that might be used in water navigation, and with Toogie at the helm. The sound so startled me so that I spilled coffee, missing my cup and scalding my bare feet. I hopped and hollered, “What in the world are you girls…”
BLAAH! The air horn cut me off. Toogie grinned like a kid who had stolen from the candy jar. Grace offered a smile that seemed to say, “Don’t blame me, but if you do, I’ll side with Toogie.”
“Got him twice before breakfast,” Toogie chortled, as I settled into a chair as far away from her as possible.
“Say hello to my little friend,” Toogie continued, patting the air horn. Before I could respond, she launched into an explanation. Her sister, Tootsie (actually, Tootsie’s given name is Margaret and Toogie’s is Bertha, but that’s sort of a Southern thing), has a grandchild who attends college. The school gave students a long list of words and phrases not to use because they may make someone uncomfortable. A copy had now made its way to Toogie.
“This is my new political correctness alarm,” she announced pointing to the air horn. Waving the school’s required speech list in front of me, but not close enough to be read, she added, “If you say one of those, you get one of these.” She pressed a forefinger to a yellow button atop the air horn, which erupted once more – BLAAH!
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Oh, heck no.” Toogie replied. “This list takes ‘dumb and dumber’ to a new level. What’s next? Banning one-dollar bills because they have George Washington’s image on them?”
“So why the air horn?”
“I just thought we should take the language list for a test drive. The air horn will let you know when you stray from the safe space.”
“Let me get this right,” I stated somewhat sharply. “Are you saying we have to follow a set of snowflake suggestions some university gives to freshmen?”
“Not freshmen,” Toogie replied, with a grin. “It’s first-year students. See right here, on the list.”
“You are starting to sound like one of those Hollywood actresses at an awards…”
“Actor, not actress.”
I paused to sip coffee and think more about what I might say next. Finally, I said, “This is sure a long way from the America our forefathers envisioned.”
“Wh-what?” I stammered.
“This says there are over 30 countries in the Americas, North and South,” Toogie explained. “Saying America when we mean United States can be hurtful to people in all those other countries.”
“You blew the horn over that?”
“The first time. The second horn was for the word forefathers. According to this list, it should be ancestors.”
“So are you going to blow that horn every time I say something off the reservation?”
“That one doesn’t need an explanation,” Toogie declared.
“Sheesh,” I sighed. “Either this is nuts or the world has gone crazy.”
“The list says not to use the words either and or together,” Toogie recited, reading from the paper in her hand. “To do so promotes exclusion, a choice between two options, rather than inclusion.”
“What does that gibberish mean?”
“I think it means,” Grace chuckled, “it is nuts and the world has gone crazy.”
“What else is on that looney list?” I asked.
“Oh, there’s a whole bunch more,” Toogie replied. “Want to try to guess a few? I’ll give you the incorrect word or phrase and see if you can give me the correct one.”
Thinking that would be better than having the air horn blasted at me, I responded, “Fire away…unless ‘fire away’ promotes arson or doesn’t align with some gun control agenda.”
“It might be fun, Dear,” Grace spoke up. “I’ll help you.”
Perusing the list, Toogie muttered, “I don’t see fire away here, but it sounds like it should be.” Then she offered, “Okay, here is an easy one. What is the politically correct word for waitress or waiter?”
“Wait person,” I quickly answered.
“Nah,” Toogie replied, hitting the horn to let me know I was wrong.
Grace suggested, “How about server?”
“Correct,” Toogie declared. “Score is Grace one, Dalton zero. How about fireman?”
“Firefighter,” Grace answered quickly, now fully engaged in the exercise.
“Right, again,” Toogie announced. “Grace two, Dalton zero.”
I thought about person power but surmised the word power could connote violence in which case I’d get air blasted again. Finally, Grace asked, “Could it be work force or staff?”
“Good,” replied Toogie. “Or human resources. Score is Grace three, Dalton still zero. Now here is a tough one. What is the politically correct phrase for pet owner?”
“There is a politically correct phrase for pet owner?” I asked incredulously. Grace shrugged her shoulders.
“This school says there is,” Toogie stated. “They suggest that pets shouldn’t be ‘owned’ and the correct phrase is pet guardian.”
“Do they have a word for tolerance?” Grace asked. “Or freedom?” As Toogie scanned the list Grace added, “No need to look. It was just a rhetorical question.”
“When is this going to end?” I muttered.
“I guess when I run out of air.” Toogie answered.
“No, I mean in a broader context, when will they run out of air?” I explained, adding quickly, “The word ‘broader’ isn’t on that list is it?”
Before Toogie could give a ruling on my last remark, I said, “I just pray we can return to more common sense.”
“I think pray or prayer was on the list,” Toogie piped up.
Grace interjected, “Please don’t blow the horn. Just tell us what it says.”
“Here it is,” Toogie announced. “Rather than pray or prayer, the list says to use the term ‘private thoughts.’”
“Heaven help us,” I sighed.
Grace reached out and gently removed Toogie’s hand from the air horn before she could deliver another blast.
After a pause, I inquired, “What’s this university? I’ll be sure to root against their football team.”
Softly and sadly Grace responded, “I think they have lost far more than a football game.”