In George Orwell's chilling novel "1984," Newspeak is a method of controlling the people's language in order to keep them under Big Brother's heavy hand. It is a devious, diabolical system using brainwashing and mind-control to allow only certain "approved" words and ideas to be used.
We have the same thing in our society today. It's called "political correctness."
So-called "political correctness" (pc) is a social phenomenon which urges people to avoid "offensive" words and actions. At best, pc is annoying and unnecessary. At worst, it is blatant censorship and represents a dangerous affront to one of our most cherished and important freedoms: the freedom of speech.
Examples of pc abound. The greeting "Merry Christmas" is now supposed to be "Happy Holidays," which sounds empty and ge-neric, like getting a letter addressed to "Occupant." A university in Illinois ordered that students not chant "USA! USA!" during football games because such a chant might be offensive to Muslims. Newscasters on ABC were told not to wear American flag pins because they might offend some viewers. And the list goes on.
This whole concept of pc should be resisted for at least two reasons.
First, the basic pc principle of not offending people is subjective. Some people are not offended by anything; others seem to be offended by everything. In the early 1900s, for example, some people tried to start a movement to put pants on horses because those people were offended by seeing the horses' genitals. Thank goodness that idea did not go anywhere! Proponents of pc should heed the old adage, "You cannot please everyone."
Secondly, so-called pc is an unnecessary restriction on our freedom of speech. Only two valid limitations to our freedom of speech currently exist:
1) No one can say anything that might endanger human lives (like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater).
2) No one can slander anyone (i.e., ruin someone's reputation by making false statements about that person).
Hence, censoring language to avoid "offending" others is not a valid restriction on our right to freedom of speech.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of pc is the passive way in which many Americans have blindly accepted it. I value my freedom of speech too highly to allow pc to dictate what words I may or may not use. Many fine American soldiers have sacrificed their lives in battle so that Americans may have the right to say whatever they wish, as long as its within the law and not intentionally offen-sive.
So, we Americans have a Constitutional right to express our thoughts. Of course, we should try to do this without intentionally offending anyone (avoid swear words, racial epithets, insults to people's religious views, etc.). If someone unintentionally offends another with his words, the offending person should apologize. However, if the listener takes offense at perfectly acceptable English words or phrases, then the speaker should not feel obligated to apologize or to alter his vocabulary in any way.
Now, if you'll excuse, me, I must go put on my American flag pin and start chanting "USA!" And let me be the first to wish you all a very politically incorrect "Merry Christmas!"
HARRY MOSLEY of Carterville is a retired professor of English.