There used to be a charm to how we messed with words. If you’re of a certain age that didn’t involve Google, then you can relate to that musical rite of passage in which you reworded the lyrics to a favorite song. To think, there was a time when people used to believe the Beatles were singing I wanna hold your ham. And Jimi Hendrix was saying Excuse me while I kiss this guy. And Elton John was singing to his man-crush with Hold me closer Tony Danza.
Nowadays, we have the dictionary police repossessing words that weren’t really in need of a reboot in the first place. These efforts in bougey bombast are meant to bring harmony and fair play to words that might be considered impish or downright ignorant.
Case in point, the Berkeley City Council. These peeps decided to go on an ordinance orgy, with words acting as the scapegoat in the latest episode of Ray Bradbury Theater. If their measure on gender-specific pronouns gets the green light, “Manhole” will become “Maintenance Hole” and “Police Man” will become “Police Officer”. Changing the latter is redundancy at its finest, since most adults already refer to the Po Po as officers. But was there really a burning need for maintenance holes? As a man, I took no offense to being named after a cast iron plate that gets driven over and spit on daily.
Council members also want to make sure nobody uses he or she when they should be using they or them. And I think that’s neither here nor there. Human interaction is the broker of ignorance or understanding, and if we start using a government handbook as if we’re American tourists lost in Paris? Well, there is a dystopian punchline to such a conclusion and it ain’t the least bit funny.
Maybe it’s just that the city council people of Berkeley have spit and polished every last genuine concern into memory and now all that’s left to vote on is stuff that ain’t worth the ginger ale in a Mary Poppins Martini. As such, they explained their decision thusly.
“Amending the municipal code to include gender-neutral pronouns by eliminating any gender preference language within the municipal code will promote equality,”
N’kay. But really, how’s about legislating that every homeowner have an emergency chopper in their driveway in the event an earthquake provides the Pacific Ocean with the world’s largest Big Gulp? Or hey, why not make it illegal for citizens of Berkeley not to own a Panda? Or maybe just this. What if they tried to come up with some long term solutions for the homeless, seeing as how Berkeley is currently sitting at twice the national average. I mean, unless the city council is hell bent on handing out demerits to all those five year old kids who will continue using the term “Police Man”.
I know you’re probably saying, But Marc . . .governmental bodies have a pristine track record of never fucking shit up. If they perceive an inherent flaw in our language, then it’s a good bet they’ll fix the problem quickly and efficiently.
Of course, what was I thinking?