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Thomas Michalski
Political correctness out of control
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This country has tipped the scales when it comes to being politically correct.

We have matriculated into a state of pure, unadulterated silliness in our quest not to offend one another.

I once knew a woman whose last name was “Cooperman.” So enraged was she over that perceived “sexist” moniker that she legally changed it to “Cooperperson.”

That was around the time when stewardesses became flight attendants and “men working” signs were changed to the more politically correct, “people working.”

Over time mentally ill people became “challenged,” the deaf became the “hearing impaired” and bald men developed into the “follically impaired.”

Too many folks today are Something-American. Some Poles are Polish-Americans. Italians are Italian-Americans, and people of color have gravitated to African-American status. Forget that they all were mostly born in the United States, making every one of them simply an American.

The phrase “politically correct” was hatched in the 1970s as an idiom to protect individuals or groups from feeling excluded or offended. Today, and fittingly so, we respect everyone’s right to choose the language and words that best describe their race, class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or physical ability.

Phrases that are not politically correct are endless. A person from a broken home now comes from a dysfunctional family. The homeless are now “dispossessed individuals” or “urban campers.” Criminals are “behaviorally challenged people.” Overweight folks are, ready for this one, “enlarged physically challenged individuals with a natural genetically-induced hormone imbalance.”

In these modern times ghettos are economically disadvantaged areas, illegal aliens have become undocumented immigrants and short people are now the vertically challenged.

The other day I called a satellite radio company and was told by a computerized voice that I would be transferred to a “listener care representative.”

There must be a phrase to describe those individuals who came up with all these politically correct terms. Maybe “too much time on your hands” might be correct. Oops, but that might insult watchmakers.

We may love our cats and dogs, but don’t call us pet owners. My little pug dog thinks of me as her “pet guardian.” Some anti-religious fanatics were successful in changing the word Christmas to the holidays. Trailer parks have become mobile home facilities.

We have ordained some lawmakers as “political mannequins,” which is any candidate who changes his or her beliefs to get elected to office. That pretty much describes all of them, at all levels of government.

I was reading a magazine article recently that described a camera as an “individual imaging device.” Earthquakes have become “geological incidents.” Lazy people are “motivationally dispossessed.” Failure has been redesignated as “deferred success.” I once interviewed a candidate for a reporter’s position who described himself as a “wordsmith.” (He was not hired.)

People who disagree with others are labeled as ignorant, bigoted and even racist. News outlets routinely remove offending comments on their Internet news sites. One daily newspaper is notorious for deleting comments if they are in conflict with their liberal leanings. Other remarks that conform to their policies remain.

The foolishness of some politically correct terms has spawned a whole list of jokes like the following:

Once upon a time, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess happened upon a frog in a pond. The frog said to the princess, “I once was a handsome prince until an evil witch put a spell on me. One kiss from you and I will turn back into a prince and then we can marry, move into the castle with my mom and you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children and forever feel happy doing so.”

That night, while the princess dined on frog legs, she kept laughing and saying, “I don’t think so.”

My own sense of humor has been described as warped. I laugh at things that some people may not find funny. A woman at a local gym once took issue with my T-shirt that read, “Cat ... the other white meat.”

My twisted wit came from years of covering crime beats in northern New Jersey and New York City. A veteran street cop once told me if I couldn’t find humor in life in the very raw than I’d never make it in the news business.

Ethnic jokes have been around since forever. Although entertaining to many, some folks claim they ridicule individuals and even entire races. Ethnic humor is not American made. In Costa Rica they tell Nicaraguan jokes. Jokes about Belgian citizens are trendy in France while Austrian humor is popular in Germany. Because someone tells a Polish, Italian, African-American or German joke doesn’t make him or her a racist or some other flavor of subversive. Being too politically correct is sometimes as erroneous as overstepping the boundaries once too often.

Maybe we need to lighten up and smile or laugh more. Someone with a tilted sense of humor simply means that we see something hilarious that might be inappropriate to others. And people whose beliefs differ from your own have the same right to voice their opinions as anyone else.

So, did you hear the one about the ...

Thomas Michalski is a retired Tampa Bay Newspapers editor. He can be reached at
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