No dinosaurs on the dance floor 

"New York City's new sensitivity guidelines for standardized tests ban 50 undesirable words that might 'evoke unpleasant emotions' in students, including 'dancing,' 'dinosaurs,' and 'birthdays.' Fundamentalists might be upset by dinosaurs and dancing, while Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays. Also banned are 'Halloween' and 'junk food ...' "

I can understand Fundamentalists' distaste for "dancing," but why "dinosaurs"? I don't think anti-evolutionists deny that dinosaurs existed, they just say that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, on an earth no more than 10,000 years old, rather than that dinosaurs died out millions of years before man came along, which is the scientists' version. Halloween's association with ghosts and witches and other supernatural stuff makes it distasteful to some religious groups, I suppose.

Partisans of all stripes try to gain control of the language for their own purposes. If you can make your opponent use your choice of words, you have the advantage. People in the anti-immigrant movement speak of "illegal" aliens; those on the other side prefer "undocumented." I'm not anti-immigrant, but I'm anti-subterfuge, and that's why I prefer "illegal." "Undocumented" is murky, pussy-footed; most Americans don't understand what it means, and that's why its users like it. It conceals rather than reveals, in the same way that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" shroud the real issue of abortion.

A recent newspaper article about the growing number of illegitimate children in America brought a protest from a reader. All children are legitimate, she said, and the word "illegitimate" should be dropped. But what would take its place? Courts of law and government welfare agencies, as well as adoptive parents, need a word to describe these children. The older term, "bastard," would surely be considered even more offensive, since it's often used as a vulgar insult. "Born out of wedlock" is clumsy and old-fashioned too. It wouldn't be widely used today.

We don't have to follow the authorities slavishly, but we do need to pay them some attention, if we hope to communicate with each other. The first definition that Random House gives for "illegitimate" is "born of parents who are not married to each other." Simple, informative, nonjudgmental — I doubt we'll beat it.


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Trump proposes an unconstitutional ban on flag burning, revoking citizenship

    Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, this morning made a public statement, via Twitter, that the flag burning should be disallowed by law: "there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation