I come to this blog with the sole inference I can draw, namely, that I have been invited to taint the textual lines herein with a splash of devil’s advocacy and to provoke – perhaps unwittingly – conversation among the like-minded and good natured gentle membership of this site. I write today with a purely inquisitive frame of mind, and do not intend to toe the line of rhetoric- no matter how seeming it may be to the subjective mind of the reader.
Whether one agrees with the central aims of the post-modern movement toward what many identify as “political correctness,” no one can deny without losing all standing for intellectual honesty that the movement was largely, and continues to be, driven by feministic thought. I often find myself committing that fatal error of pronouncing some un-PC utterance, but after all, I am admittedly antiquated in my notions; perhaps I’m just too lazy to stay abreast of the evolutions our language undergoes. One day its “waitress” the next its “server.” It really is too much for me. Yet, must it be?
I pose this question in the hope that someone might enlighten me, for I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for the alterations made to my beloved linguistic fabric. My quandary is perhaps best analyzed by anecdote. I was out to dinner with a female friend of mine. In an offhand remark, I queried as to what my date would like to drink “when the waitress gets back.” By the look on the face across the table from me I thought I had unknowingly desecrated her family’s ancient scrolls. ‘Twas not the scrolls however, it was my use of “waitress.” I was frankly puzzled, I was at a positive loss for words. I was also three sheets to the wind.
I still have yet to understand why “server” is somehow inherently better, and thus preferred, over “waitress”. The only explanation I have ever received is that “waitress” is not politically correct. But why? And says who? If the word is deconstructed to its syntactic components, is it because “waitress” somehow sounds like someone is waiting on me and is thus my subordinate? This can’t be so, because “server” is much more similar – both linguistically and phonetically to “servant”, and surely servant is far worse than the impliedly demeaning nature of one who waits.
The same goes for “steward” and “stewardess.” My last flight would’ve been pleasant but for the uncomfortable correction at the gate to the effect that: “Sir, it’s flight attendant, not stewardess.” I felt shame. But why? Why is “flight attendant” the preferred jargon? Is it because it abolishes sexual (sorry, gender-based) distinctions? Both men and women (and other?) can now fall under the all-inclusive umbrella of “flight attendant?” I fail to see the virtue in that. All it does is strip our language of its enticing diversity. It also threatens, in the long-haul to reduce the pages necessary in dictionaries, and after all, this site is in part sponsored by Merriam Webster. But I digress...
In the totality of the world’s ills, my point seems miniscule, flippant even. But I am weary of the English language losing its color and clarity, and the exactitude I've come to love. I hope someone might set me right and satisfy my desire for an explanation.
And in the spirit of blogging, I cannot take leave without linking to at least one site in support. See Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D for a brief essay on this topic.