Any new example of the burgeoning peril to American mindhood is sure to make news. Monday’s Tribune carries an op-ed from CNN contributor S.E. Cupp, who is more concerned than she needs to be about a guide to “bias-free language” that until recently was posted on the University of New Hampshire website. It might be possible to criticize a guide of this nature without leaning on Orwell, but Cupp fails the test. She quotes a line from 1984: “In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
Among the words the University of New Hampshire guide suggests be retired from the English language are mothering and fathering (parenting is better), American (when South Americans are slighted), and healthy (when what is actually meant is nondisabled). These suggestions alarm Cupp: 1984, she says, “suddenly . . . seems less like fiction and more like reality.”
The guide was posted in 2013 and taken down the other day, Cupp tells us, but its mere existence proves that “political correctness and word policing . . . has reached cartoonish levels.” (If Cupp wanted to argue that no one cares any longer about subject-verb agreement she could make a stronger case.) But she presents no evidence that the guide had the slightest impact on anything as it sat there in obscurity for two years. Blog writers who came across it “mocked it,” says Cupp, while pundits such as herself who were too distraught to hoot invoked Orwell.
Meanwhile, this past May the Collins Scrabble Word List added 6,500 new words. These include augh, blech, and yeesh, and I wonder why Cupp didn’t use them all to convey her alarm at our contracting language.