I have translated a couple of things on transsexuals this year – I found Wikipedia helpful for vocabulary – so I was interested to see Joey DiGuglielmo in the Washington Blade Blog responding to criticisms of supposedly offensive terminology.
The Washington Blade had reported on a man who underwent a sex-change operation, later officially took the name Michelle and more recently was sent to a men’s prison. There was criticism of the use of the term sex-change operation instead of gender reassignment surgery, and of the reference to the subject as a man at the beginning of the story. But of course, if there had been no reference to the original sex, the story would have been harder to follow.
DiGlugliemo (pertinently, I am not sure if Joey is male or female, despite a photo…) makes some other remarks about PC language changes:
I also fail to understand why ‘sex change’ has become pejorative. To me, it seems like one of those things that just is what it is. Perhaps to some transgender people, it has a frightening, ill-informed, 1950s-era ‘Glen or Glenda’-type connotation.
…But there are other words and terms that have become un-P.C. despite the fact that, in my opinion, they were perfectly fine to begin with. I find it silly and pretentious when people insist on flight attendant over stewardess, administrative assistant over secretary, or ‘passed away’ instead of died. Are these nothing more than silly semantics games society plays to make individuals feel better?
I waited tables for years, both during and after college and though the canned greeting was supposed to be, ‘Hi, I’m Joey and I’ll be your server this evening,’ I preferred waiter. I had no illusions that my job was any more glamorous than what I was doing: waiting tables!
Meanwhile, Il quaderno dei vocabuli has picked up a story of a few weeks ago in which Silvio Berlusconi referred to Margaret Thatcher in distinctly non-PC, albeit admiring, tones: Independent article.
Gnocca, pronounced “nyokka”, is a vulgar term meaning “vulva” and is the standard word used by construction workers, white-van drivers and long-serving Italian prime ministers for any attractive woman who crosses their path. “The typology is composed of elements of the female sex with a high degree of attractiveness,” deconstructs one faintly priapic, cod-academic Italian website. “The fundamental characteristic of the gnocca is to grab from common mortals whatever she needs to satisfy her desires.” A definition that many former Tory cabinet ministers would probably go along with.
(Washington Blade story via The Lexicographer’s Rules)