The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Senior Momentum - October 2015 - “Politically Correct” ...or just Nonsense?


 “Politically Correct” ...or just Nonsense? 

by Zoe Tummillo

Where is the line?  And, how important is it, really?  Really.    I go back and forth on this issue.   For some, it seems like the difference between heaven and hell; for still others it’s just:  ...whaat? Gimme a break!   Somewhere in between is the okay middle ground, I guess.

Clear malice and intended insult aside, surely I can’t be the only one who remembers when flirtation was fun, ethnic “inside” jokes and all that terminology was part of the bonds that kept us glued together as friends, cousins and pals.  When did it all turn into just a bunch of dirty words – worthy of laws and lawsuits?

“Back then,” we knew the difference between mean spirited slights or cruel taunting and the words we all used as part of social gaming; the back and forth.   The guys liked to flirt with catcalls at a pair of good legs, and us girls let them know with expressions and body language who was a looker or a fox.   Whistles, winks and shaking your wrist at hot stuff didn’t get you arrested and labeled a sexist pig.   We knew who they were; and, usually they got weeded out and ignored – or reprimanded; or worse.

We knew the difference between fun, unkindness, malicious name-calling and cruelty.   It amazes me to see the lengths to which the propriety of some words is now taken.   And full-grown, educated people even refer to certain very, very bad special words only by the first letter!  It is as though those words must not be spoken, even in a discussion concerning whether or not they should be said – out loud!   You know them:  The “N” word, the “F” word, etc.  (Funny, I don’t remember anyone giving a rat’s a-- about calling/avoiding Dago or Wop by saying the “D” word or the “W” word!)  It just gets so deep, one needs boots – as some wise-cracking comedian said.

Have we become a society so steeped in personal insecurity and fears that certain expressions always imply insult and meanness?  Don’t most adults know the difference when the spirit of an expression is just an expression, and when it is intended to insult, belittle or hurt?  Isn’t it the cruelty that needs to be addressed and not the words?   My parents sure knew the difference!  And we sure had to learn the difference.

I haven’t changed much of my use concerning the HUGE list of politically incorrect terms, words, expressions – whatever – as time has moved me along.  So far I haven’t gotten into big trouble; but, then, I’m not a cruel person.  My sister and I have no hesitation at all commenting on a silver fox, if one happens to walk by!  And we aren’t insulted when one flirts the old-fashioned way, with harmless old words or gestures.  Do we discriminate?  Of course!    We know now, and we knew then, when to yell for help or call the Cops when it has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with danger, or slander or perversion.

One of the great clearinghouses for this touchy subject is on the Comedy Channel!    Without naming too many favorites, there are some wonderful routines that fly right in its face.   From Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, right up to Lewis Black, great comedians have taken our “word sensitivity” and its foolish extremes through the wringer.  And it makes you think twice about the self-consciousness we are all charged with obeying – to watch out for every politically incorrect word that might come out of our mouth, every time — just in case there is someone within hearing range who might be offended.

I’ve been “corrected” often!  I’ve had it pointed out that “Negro” is no longer advised; that “homosexual” needs to be “gay;” that ethnic and regional slang designations are downright dangerous – regardless of how everyone still loves those jokes that play on the words.  (Like the one about southern guy I just got in an email forward:  The cop stops a guy on the street and says: Do you have an ID?  The southern cracker says:  About what?)  OK.  If we laugh, does it mean we think all southerners are stupid?

So, how much of all of that kind of stuff is importantly serious, and how much is nonsense?  How much is super-sensitivity, and how much is about one of the prejudices?  And, how much is simple, garden-variety opportunism for notoriety (or a fat financial settlement)?  As Mom used to warn:  Just watch your mouth!




Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; “Pieces of My Path”©, essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American; and Senior Momentum: Front And Center!©. To contact her: email: