I spent most of the 1970s in and around Wollongong and taught some of that time at a school whose postal address was Fairy Meadow. I spent perhaps too much time at the Cabbage Tree Hotel, generally known as the Cabbage Patch, on Princes Highway Fairy Meadow. And there were some very butch men in there, I can tell you. I suspect young Peter (see the pic on the link) was not even born then: a shame really.
All this silliness is because Today Tonight trotted out a cliched piece on “political correctness gone mad” tonight, always a good filler between dodgy builders, diets, and consumer rip-offs. Apparently “Sea World on the Gold Coast has decided the name fairy penguins could cause offence to the gay community so now it is now calling them little penguins.”
Well how silly of them, that’s all I can say. I don’t think I have met any gay person, and I have met quite a few, who would lose any sleep over the existence of fairy penguins, so heaven knows what pills they have been dissolving in the water up on the Gold Coast.
There is a sinister twist, of course, as such routine mockery of “political correctness” masks the fact that so-called PC has really done a lot of good. To be aware that our choice of language could marginalise and hurt people is not such a bad thing, is it? On the other hand, there are those for whom PC seems to be the new tee-total, a puritan fetish. One can have an inclusive spirit, I suspect, without tying oneself in too many linguistic knots, and if the spirit is right I think the language will follow; unfortunately the converse may also be true, with habitual anti-PC revealing a malign spirit, or a thoughtless one at best.
Channel Seven goes on: “But not even Santa Claus can escape being in the political correctness firing line, remember when he got the sack from some child care centres worried about causing offence to non-Christians?” Funnily, Santa Claus, with all the commercialism around that image, causes offence to some Christians: I don’t think you will find him in the New Testament. Doesn’t worry me, though, nor does it worry most Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Communists or atheists of my acquaintance.
Go to Weasel Words for much more interesting language crimes — like “rendition” for example.