Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Damn Those Chinks in the Agenda

I'm conflicted, yet that doesn't keep me from also being irritated.

I was just looking over the agenda for the OnMediaNYC 2007 conference, which in all likelihood is going to be your usual gaggle of new media/social media conference circuit douc -- I mean, luminaries -- and assorted junket junkies, networkers and hangers-on. (Yes, I would still like to be one of them, please.)

Here's the very first session:
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

8:30 am – 9:30 am
Are There Chinks in Google’s Advertising Armor?
Okay, look: Chink is a perfectly legitimate and valid word. I'm a word guy -- I know this.

And as a word guy, even if I personally don't choose to use it, I'm still not going to begrudge anyone else from using it.

Even though there are perfectly good synonyms that avoid any proximity at all to racial slurs.

Okay, maybe I'll grumble about it a little bit.

For me, chink is like niggardly. (Actually, it's a little worse that niggardly, as niggardly just sounds like a racial slur, whereas chink is actually used as one.) They're both real words. There are just better words out there people can use.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. Yeah, I've been called a chink before, when I was a kid. (Incidentally, I think that people who try to "reclaim" slurs are morons.) I just don't think there's any harm in taking a moment to switch to gap or crack instead of chink, or stingy instead of niggardly.

As a word guy, I know you can always take sensitivity to words to absurd extremes. Everyone has their personal lines to cross. For example, I don't know if people actually use "slope" as a slur outside of Vietnam War movies -- it just sounds ridiculous to me. I wouldn't be offended by it, unless the person saying it was also, say, hitting me with a brick. But there are folks who might.

There are plenty of others. Spic-and-span. Wop as onomatopoeia. Dutch treat.

And language does change. For example, I had no idea that Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe used to say catch a... well, I had no idea that it wasn't always "catch a tiger by the toe." (Which made that scene in Pulp Fiction a little puzzling the first time I saw it.)

Anyway, although personally irritating to me, I still don't want to be one of those minority activists (I've mentioned that I detest the phrase "people of color," even though I've caught myself using it a few times. I dislike political correctness, even though I'm currently advocating some. As I said, I'm conflicted.) who whines about a perfectly legitimate word.

So this is not a passive-aggressive blog post done with the hope that the conference organizers, as they vanity-search their conference for their naked conversations, stumble upon this entry and change the name of the session. (See, I'm not even going to Technorati-tag this with OnMediaNYC+2007.)

In fact, I forbid it. (That wasn't reverse psychology, either.)

It just kind of bugs me. And it bugs me that it bugs me.


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