Sunday, June 27, 2010

Uprooting ingrained phrases

If we as a society are to make real change and really get rid of -isms now and forever one crucial thing that must be done is to remove the various -ist remarks, phrases, and idioms from our everyday language.

I was over at Random Babble in a threat about "Forbidden Fruit" type relationships (characters wanting what they can't have) in tv shows. During the discussion I used a line that most people probably hear and possibly use on a very regular basis:
And you would have to be blind to not see Angel/Cordy coming from a few dozen miles away.
See what I did there? Yeah I didn't notice it either until Ouyang Dan pointed it out.
Danny, in the future I would prefer it if you would not use language that uses disability as a metaphor.
That's a precise example of the stuff people shouldn't be saying. Now I'm sure you've heard that line used a lot and maybe even used it yourself. Using a disability to get a point across about not paying attention to something. To me it doesn't sound like much but bear in mind that I have near perfect vision and only wear reading glasses because I spend about 12 hours a day in front of a computer screen. But now that I think about (which in and of itself is a part of the problem) I can imagine someone who is blind would not appreciate someone using their disability in a witty turn of phrase.


David K. said...

The problem with this kind of metaphorical language is that it's often hard to think of an alternative way of expressing the same thought - what alternative phrase could you use?
"Blind not to see it coming" - a metaphor for not having foresight / being able to predict something and therefore something that's already abstract and metaphorical.
I'm not saying it shouldn't / can't be done, but it's more complicated than replacing a single word, which is done (fairly) easily, e.g. "disabled" instead of "crippled" and easier to get other people to do...

Danny said...

Yeah I can understand how it can be but I think its just a matter of unlearning things that just didn't cross out minds before.

I do agree that its more complicated than changing a single word.

Such as instead of what I said it took me about 5 seconds to think of, "You must not have been paying attention to see it coming from a mile away." of "You really weren't watching Angle if you didn't predict that."

It won't be as easy as that all the time but I think its something that needs to be done.

uremo said...


Excuse me for being the big and bad evil one here, but I don't intend to drop a single phrase just because someone might read it and get offended. It's too easy to fall into the trap of trying to offend no one.

That doesn't mean I'd tell blind jokes near a blind person or continually use a phrase I know offends them in their presence, but to a certain extent people just have to get over turns of phrase that might offend them. I learned a long long time ago that just about any one can get offended by just about anything.

By the way: If I could cure every blind person in the world, I would. If anyone wanted to stay blind for some sort of personal reason that choice would be up to them.

Danny said...

Hey there Uremo:

Ultimately no one can make you change your language. I just think its worth being mindful of others. I think what helps me think that way is turn it around on myself.

I would not want someone making light of one of my characteristics for the sake of making a point so why should I do it to others.

elementary_watson said...

I think the root of the problem lies a bit elsewhere: Using the word "seeing" when either "understanding" or "predicting" would be far more accurate.

Using the adjective "blind" for someone who fails to understand an issue/an argument, or who failed to predict things that were obvious to oneself, simply follows from that equation.

So, in a way, saying "You must not have been paying attention to not see it coming from a mile away" still falls back on the same unconscious assumptions as "you must be blind not to see it coming".

Danny said...

So perhaps it is the words themselves that trigger the response?

elementary_watson said...

You mean the word "blind"? Well, probably you're right, but the word is simply bluntly making the point that "to understand=to see", which already has the problematic implication "blind = lacking of understanding".