Sunday, April 11, 2010

When spades were called spades

The other day, my ex-neighbor Bob called in to pick up his mail. He was driven here by his female companion. Bob had a broken collar-bone as a consequence of riding his bike into an oncoming tractor, so he was incapable of driving. To my mind, Bob, a former champion rugby player, is indeed the sort of guy who would be capable of plowing his bike into a tractor. He probably imagined the vehicle, for a split second, as an attacking player... and he automatically tackled it.

I talked to them about the disappointing Plowmen's Feast at St-Jean-en-Royans [display]. At one point in our conversation, I exclaimed that this event used to be fun when there were floats manned by inmates of the two local mental asylums (in St-Laurent-en-Royans). All of a sudden, realizing that Bob and his companion are employed in these institutions, I imagined that I might be using offensive language: "You professional people surely don't talk any longer of mental patients." Bob's companion replied: "Effectively, the administration asks us to refer to them as X, whereas we employees, talking among ourselves, call them Y." Here, X was a verbose expression, which I've forgotten, along the lines of "individuals with an exceptional cerebral state", whereas Y was more like "dingbats".

In the context of my genealogical research, I've just been consulting the UK census for 1911. On the left, you see the heading of the final column on the census form, which was filled in by a state employee referred to as an enumerator. In the copies of the census results that are available online today, entries in this column have simply been erased by big white rectangles.

I'm not basically opposed to politically-correct language, although many specimens of NiceTalk strike me as rather stupid. Personally, I tend to not get excited about such matters.

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