What’s The Meaning Of All This?

We have a very unique (strange?) language. We have words beginning with different letters that make the same sounds (farm/phone. We have words that end in the same letters but do not rhyme (rough/through/cough/though also good/food). And why all the silent letters, what’s the purpose?

We have words in our language spelled exactly the same, yet sound different. Included in that category known as homographs are desert (the arid sandy geographic land description) and desert (to abandon). We have words spelled differently, yet sound the same. Words like to, two, and too, and there, their, and they’re have baffled many a student, even adults, in the quest to speak and write correctly.

The English language includes phrases, idioms, multi-meaning words, and rules like “i” before “e” except after “c,” and “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking,” which actually was once tested in a random selection of 1000 words with two vowels together, and found that this was true in only 43 percent of those words.

We have compound words in our language that make sense when you put the two words together. Words like headache, or flowerpot, make sense because you can have a head that aches, and we plant flowers in a pot. There are some compounds, though that create images in our mind that might be considered comical, even nonsensical. Consider the words butterfly and strawberry. Those might be harder to explain to your child or grandchild who see a picture of them as they are being read to before bed.

We have unusual phrases like “Here’s mud in your eye,” oxymorons like “bittersweet” and “Jumbo Shrimp,” and paradoxes like “wise fool,” and “It must be cruel to be kind,” which might make some scratch their heads as to the true meanings of them.

Our language has endearing words too. Words of love, affection, kindness, and encouragement are included in our language, as are words of meanness and cruelty too.

We’ve also developed into a world that uses the initials PC much these days. Well, guess what? In following the uniqueness of our language, those letters can mean a whole slew of things in our daily conversations.

Many people use PCs (Personal Computers) in their daily life, for work, study, communication, and enjoyment. Some people are told by medical personnel to take certain medications, PC or Post Cibum (after meals).

Some involved on either side of our court system may encounter the initials PC referring to the Penal Code. Some people may have encountered the head law enforcer of a community, the PC, (police chief, or police commissioner) in some of their day to day doings, or maybe wrongdoings. If things get too hot in jail, or too dangerous for a key witness, then someone may be in need of another PC, Protective Custody.

In the big business world, a PC refers to a professional corporation, and in businesses, large and small, PC is another way to indicate, petty cash. And how could we not throw in a PC from this new world of social media, a photo courtesy, since selfies are a huge part of life today?

So, we have the same two initials indicating at least nine different things, and probably a whole bunch more, if we look them up hard enough.

If you counted the uses of PC mentioned above, you’ll only count eight. There is a ninth one though, that seems to be of consideration in so much of what we do, say, read, listen to, maybe even eat, sleep, and breathe, and that’s the PC that stands for Politically Correct.

It seems like if you do or say a lot today, you’re offending someone. If we say, “Merry Christmas,” we’ve alienated those who don’t believe or celebrate Christmas. If we like certain sports teams, it seems we’ve offended some because of the nicknames or mascots of those teams. If we say “God Bless You,” to someone who sneezes, we may have offended an atheist or agnostic.

If we ask a student to pull up his pants, we may have stepped on his/her right to dress creatively and expressively. If we say to a student or a worker that he or she shows signs of apathy, or laziness, someone may interpret that as people stepping on that student’s, or worker’s, laid back, easy going demeanor.

If we use terms like ladies and gentlemen, boys or girls, we may have offended someone. If we use the term disabled, as in the case of Major League Baseball’s Disabled List, we may be offending someone. That’s the reason MLB now refers to that as the IL or injured list. In looking up the word disabled, one definition from Merriam-Webster found was “incapacitated by illness or injury.” In baseball, when a player cannot, or is not able to, play due to an injury, he was placed on the disabled, or the “incapacitated by injury,” list. So, is using the word disabled in this case demeaning?

In no way, shape, or form do I believe in demeaning anyone for anything. I do not believe in being cruel. I hate hearing slurs that attack or hurt any people. I do not want to offend any people either. I do feel, though, that political correctness is creating an “Open Door” policy, for people to take advantage of situations and create divisions in a world that already has too many divisions in it right now. I also think, at times, political correctness is only viewed or interpreted one directionally.

On a rerun episode of Last Man Standing, starring Tim Allen, Allen’s character, Mike Baxter, was asked to speak at a small college graduation, but there were restrictions on what he could say, so as not to offend anyone in the audience. They called it a Safe Zone, where everyone could go and not get their feelings hurt. That’s all well and good, but not an accurate picture of the real world.

We seem to be living in a world of overprotection, with things like flu shots and hand sanitizers, things that weren’t in existence in my generation’s day growing up. We drank from outdoor spigots and hoses. We rode safely in the backs of pickup trucks. We climbed down into the corner sewers to retrieve our baseballs that rolled down them. Dirt was one of the “toys” we played with, we chewed on grass, and yes, even ate snow in our day, not the yellow one though, and many of us lived to tell our grandkids about it. We went to school with colds or sore throats. We grew up smelling like Vicks’ Vapor Rub, with the cherry or orange taste of St. Joseph’s Children’s Aspirin in our mouths. I think one of the reasons I’ve not had a lot of illness is that my immune system was made stronger by not being overprotected as a kid growing up. The same might be said regarding political correctness. Maybe we need to strengthen our Politically Correct immune systems.

Getting back to PC and the Last Man Standing, episode referred to, Baxter did not deliver the commencement address, as the college wouldn’t allow him to deliver it the way he wrote it. His response to his daughter though, after he was refused, was great food for thought. Baxter told his daughter, “Maybe you should care less about who you might offend, and care more about who you might inspire.”

No, we shouldn’t go out of our way to be cruel, or disrespectful, in our thoughts, words, or actions, but when we address anyone, or listen to anyone, we need to realize that we can’t just think of the world in terms of “I.” We need to thinks in terms of “we,” and that something someone says may offend us, and maybe even force us how to deal with that in a non-violent or threatening way, but may also be inspiring to someone else, making them stronger in how to face the world, maybe helping them to accept what may offend them, allowing them to still co-exist, give and take, maybe even be a little more tolerant, and/or accepting, of the diversities of the world and its people.

And maybe, if that happens, the world may end up being another PC, pretty cool.