PC words – how far is too far?

Ok, now that I have everyone’s attention, I actually just want to talk about two relatively similar families of words that have potentially become problematical.

I want to be clear, I’m not arguing for or against here, just bringing up one of the current controversies in trying to clean up the language we use as writers, and the possibility that this goes a step too far, depending on who you, your target audience, and your potential nay-sayers may be.

The two core words, for these two similar bodies of synonyms, metaphors, and insinuations are as follows:


The two words (and their variants) are used in many very similar situations, though in dialog they are generally used to express that a person is either substandard in intelligence (stupid) or non-standard in sanity (insane) OR that someone is *acting* in a way that makes them seem less intelligent/less rational. They can also be used in a general way against objects and situations, but that is not where the potential offense lies.

In our modern PC world, where we want to be kind and not use actual slurs, but we do want to write vividly and effectively, it is easy to forget that “the line” does not end where ethnicity/religion/orientation does, but that people who are living with mental differences or with varying intellectual capacities are among our potential audience, and that we are not intending to be ableist, necessarily, when one person in a story calls another “an idiot” or says they are “acting crazy”, but it may be interpreted that way.

To many of us, these are basic turns of phrase and generally do not imply someone actually *is* one or the other, just that their behavior is veering from the norm, right? But then, by the very act of using “stupid/insane” to mean “wrong”, are we demonizing people who may think they fall into these categories?

I suppose we could back it off to “you are behaving irrationally” or “you are not thinking out the consequences of your actions in advance”, or even “you are acting out of character” – but no one talks like that and no matter how woke people get, they probably never will.

And who could limit themselves to one phrase to replace the incredible myriad of euphemisms and colorful synonyms these words already come equipped with?

It’s a difficult needle to thread, I suppose, and we’re all going to have to draw our own conclusions. I doubt humans will stop accusing each other of being either stupid or crazy – at least not as long as we still have politics.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 28, 2020 at 7:57 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. It’s funny that you’ve posted this as I have just been sent an article from College Fix of the 7 words and phrases, along with many others I am sure, that have been banned.

    Sooner of later we will find ourselves using Orwell’s, “New Speak”. We will all be either, ‘Optimal’ or ‘Un-Optimal’, along with with their cadre of ‘Plus’ and ‘Double Plus’ modifiers.

    It’s fun to live in a world where Picnic is a bad word.

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