Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Euphemism or political correctness?

While some aspects of political correctness may be characterised as euphemism, on the other hand a desire not to cause offence may be born of a reluctance to incur the wrath of people in positions of power such as public servants, police or politicians. Thus reading part of a recent letter in the Dundee press which seemed characterised by euphemism, it was interesting to speculate on the motivation for the self-evident reluctance to cause offence.

The letter concerned long-standing problems of crime and anti-social behaviour in the Baxter Park area of Dundee, and below is proffered an alternative, straight-talking interpretation without the usual pussy-footing around, sort of thing, if you see what I mean, kind of:

"More and more youths are coming into Baxter Park at night to hang out and blow off a little positive energy..."

The area is being overrun be neds, who intimidate by way of the sheer force of their numbers. They are running wild and are responsible for the usual litany of problems such as noise, violence and vandalism.

"...but the youths need to be safe in the darkness."

Something needs to be done to sort these people out for the sake of local residents and others who may be subject to the nuisance and intimidation, particularly at night.

"Senior Tayside Police officers have publicly given their expert opinion that more lighting in and around the park is a benefit to community safety."

For various reasons the police are next to useless, and these so-called experts are abdicating their responsibilities by citing the lack of lighting in the park to be the root of the problem. More lighting might help alleviate the problems, but as well as shifting the blame this would probably achieve little more than to shift the neds and attendant misbehaviour elsewhere.

Perhaps there's an element both of political correctness and a willingness not to offend police - or indeed suck up to them - but the rest of the letter suggests that there are no qualms about taking local politicians to task.

Another possible interpretation of the letter is that there's an element of the tongue-in-cheek and sarcasm about it, which would certainly be the case if yours truly wrote it. But although we all employ euphemisms and I doubt if many of us outline our true feelings on such matters in a public forum - except perhaps anonymously - the letter is certainly not the kind of thing that I could write as an honest expression of opinion!

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