New York: ‘Swine flu’, the word used to describe the killer viral infection, has been named the most politically incorrect word of 2009 by Global Language Monitor, a group that studies word usage.
“Though hundreds of millions know of the current pandemic as swine flu, various governments and agencies for political motives ranging from protecting pork producers to religious sensitivity have chosen to address the virus by its formal name, influenza A(H1N1),” the GLM said.
‘Flush toilet’, ‘green revolution’, ‘minority’ and ‘saint’ follow ‘swine flu’ in the list that was prepared from a proprietary algorithm by tracking the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the blogosphere, as well as accessing proprietary databases.
The terms ‘politically correct’, ‘oriental’, ‘founding fathers’, ‘black sheep’, and ‘senior citizen’ complete the top 10.
“Once again, we are seeing that the attempt to remove all bias from language is itself creating biases of their own,” said GLM's chief word analyst, Paul JJ Payack.
“At this point it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in any form of public dialogue without offending someone's sensitivities, whether right, left or centre,” he said.
On the word ‘flush toilet’, GLM said, “flush toilets, toilet paper and toilet use in general are now coming under the watchful eyes of the green movement.
The GLM analysis also said that ‘minority’ is a politically incorrect word as “talking about minorities is considered insensitive to the community since this can make them feel, well, like minorities”.
“The term politically correct has, itself, is now politically correct,” the GLM said, adding “be careful how you use it”.
In the US, the word ‘oriental’ is considered offensive to Asians because the term is based on the geographic relationship of Asia from a Western perspective.
“In Europe (and in most Asian nations), however, ‘Oriental’ is acceptable," the GLM said.
‘Founding fathers’ was another incorrect word in the list.
“Though all the signers of the American Declaration of Independence were men, this is considered sexists in some quarters,” the GLM said, adding it is better to use the term founders.