Word Abuse: PEOPLE

There are two reasons why the current use of the word “people” is hideous and ungazeable-upon.

The first reason!
The first reason is, strangely enough, to be found in the pages of The Guardian’s “style guide” in which the subeditors explain their typographic preferences and preferred phrases, published online so that their political opinions can be open to ridicule.   Many publications do the same, and the guides often make for interesting reading.
(It is our Foundation’s policy to mock anyone who holds any political opinion, as one must do when one is utterly neutral.)
The Telegraph, for example, made an ill-advised list of naughty words – in their 19th-century world, gay people are not allowed to come out, for fear that some food might get stuck deep in their throat.   It’s safer, I suppose.

And so to the Guardian’s “rules”.   Everywhere one looks in this politically-correct dictatorship of “respect” and other empty maxims, we see the meekest members of society constantly described as “people”: black people, disabled people, blind people, deaf people, elderly people or older people, and mentally ill people.
As though that makes everything all right!
For the sake of brevity and getting on with things, we prefer the disabled, the blind, the older, the gay, the mentally ill and the Black or the Blacks with a capital B of respect to make everything all right.

The counter-argument is that calling disableds “the disabled” in news reports reduces those individuals to a single characteristic and treats them unfairly.   But what about the 21% reduction in letters?   The phrase saves time, and besides, I have never actually spoken to a disabled person, who was offended by me calling him that which he is.   Never.[1]

The same goes for other races: one must always use a single word: Chineses, Jews, French men, Moslems, and general Foreigns.   It is perfectly good English.

As the Queen’s English Society say, “Blacks” is also best,[2] and writing “The same goes for a Black” makes you sound as though you have lots of black friends.     But we already mentioned this word and would not want any oversensitive panickers to accuse us of racial favouritism!

There is the obvious exception of whites: one must say, “white people”, as the phrase is so embedded in our culture as to be inalterable.    The language began with white people, so yes, special courtesy has to be given here.   We’re sorry.

The second reason!
But, lo and behold!   We have a second reason that will put the word “people” among the dead and the buried.    People is not actually a word at all... or at least, not in the way that you use it.    William Strunk, writing in 1918, noticed that hundreds of persons were running around saying “people” as the plural of “person”, when the correct plural is naturally “persons”.    He forgot to add that “childs”, “tooths”, “sheeps” and “womans”[3] are also much better, but we have put that right now.   And it is to be greeted with thanks that, thereafter, nobody used the phrase “six people” anymore.

Political correctness makes the QES go mad >
Word Abuse main menu

See also
William Strunk: hero
Simon Heffer: protecting the Telegraph from current events
Gay, a word with many meanings



Yes, we said black people were “meek”.   But I doubt the meek will inherit the earth.


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