I’m not a fan of political correctness but there’s a few terms that we read about in our everyday life that have lately gotten on my nerves. Maybe it’s because I find them misleading, and by being misleading, they end up becoming offensive, even racist. Or maybe it’s because they’re just plain stupid. Without further ado, here’s six terms that should be expunged from the human lexicon, and anyone who dares mention them again be banished forever to some desolate island off Antarctica.
According to this article by The Economist, the term “emerging markets” was coined by a World Bank economist in the early 1980s. The term was gradually picked up in business circles but since has basically replaced all other previous terms which describe the non-Western world in the mainstream media, most notably, the former preferred term “third world” which is now deemed somewhat politically incorrect (and historically incorrect since the so-called second world – the former Communist Bloc – no longer exists). Call me old school, but I find the term third world decidedly more agreeable than the aberration known as emerging markets. And that’s because by lumping billions of people into nothing more than “markets” you are basically describing entire societies as simply consumers – preferably consumers of stuff that Western companies make and will have no choice but to export given their own stagnating home markets. The irony is that these is no such term as “developed markets”, as Westerns obviously will prefer referring themselves as actual countries or economies. You know, things with living, breathing people, not just wallets and cash machines ready to buy your crap.
Urban music. Urban dance classes. Urban street art. Urban fashion. Translation: rap music, hip-hop dance classes, graffiti, fashion sports clothing. You know, it’s not racist to actually say that this is all inspired by black culture and black people (and to a lesser extent other minorities) who have no choice but to live in the inner-city rather than enjoy the comfy white suburban life. But last time I checked, there were plenty of other urban influences that went well beyond rap music and shiny Nike sneakers. Cities, after all, are the melting pot of modern society and it’s hard to find a more diverse forum of cultural styles and trends anywhere else. But would anyone describe Parisian café culture as “urban”? No. How about the hipster culture of East London? Nope. Ah but black break-dancing kids in the subway, yeah, that’s urban. Hipster skinny jeans? Not urban. Adidas tracksuits. Urban. You’re starting to get the picture. Can anyone name an indie group which came from a corn-husking Midwestern town? No, but indie isn’t urban either because it’s white guys doing it. So let’s cut the sublime racism and drop this pitiful term forever.
“People of color”
Now that we’re on the topic of race, has there ever been a stupider term to describe blacks as “people of color”? Because last time I checked, black is actually the absence of color. The universe is black. When you turn off the lights, room goes black. The depth of the ocean floor, yup, black. So if anything, every other race – including whites – should be people of color. Again, another case of supposed political correctness being nothing more than sublime racism; and worse of all, scientifically blasphemous if you ask me. If there’s any black people reading this, start amusing your white friends and colleagues by calling them people of color. The look on their face will be priceless when they realize you have science backing you up.
It seems that every mention of Youssou N’Dour’s presidential aspirations in Senegal is preceded by the words “world music” star. Let’s start by saying that the term “world music” is the most ludicrous term given to a musical genre, precisely because it isn’t a genre. It’s basically everything that isn’t rock or rap (err, correction, “urban music”), or isn’t sung in English or didn’t originate in the Anglo-Saxon world. So that’s kind of like 90% of the music produced in the world, isn’t it? By any way you want to define it, the term “world music” is stupid, illogical, or offensive (usually all three). If it’s because of the music’s roots to each country’s indigenous culture, then folk and blues are also world music. If it’s a language issue then Shakira, Rammstein and J-Pop should be world music. And then if it’s a geographical issue then perhaps Cubans and Indonesians should refer to rock as “world music”. The worst thing of all is that “world music” fans tend to see themselves as sophisticated cosmopolitan connoisseurs when most are actually just pretentious musical snobs, no better than the “musical moron twins” from High Fidelity but with global taste. Yes, play the Buena Vista Social Club to your snobby friends, we all know you have Ke$ha on your iPod. And finally, I’m not asking record stores to have a section for every single local genre in the world – there’d be more genres than albums. But let’s just get rid of this idea that “world music” is a genre in itself, however broadly defined. It isn’t. The collective musical creativity of humanity is too vast and beautiful to be so ignorantly lumped into a ridiculous term such as this.
Moving on to geography, for anyone in the western hemisphere who isn’t from the United States, it might surprise them that the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci not once stepped foot in which is now the USA. And when it was realized that the “new world” was actually new, it was given the name America in his honor, not the Americas since it was one new world, not two. So where does the term “Americas” come? Well, because the United States decided to hijack the name America for its own use just because the founding fathers could not come up with a proper name for their new country. Consequently, they also failed to find a proper demonym for themselves. Interestingly, in Spanish there is one: “Estadounidense” which literally means “Unitedstatesian” (makes more sense IMHO). Now, here’s the logical fallacy of the term “Americas”. If there really is more than one America, then America as a whole should be larger than its separate components, right? Take Korea for example. By definition, Korea cannot be smaller than North and South Korea together, since both are part of it! And yes, the term “the Koreas” would also be correct too, but unlike America/Americas, it actually is used as a synonym of Korea, rather than refer to a distinct political entity. Thus we have it that America is not a country – it’s the entire New World, and anyone born in it has the right to be called an American. Indeed it might surprise Unitedstatesians to know that the Spanish also called their New World subjects “Americanos” back in the day, a term that gradually died out after independence. So on behalf of the other 600 million people who share the landmass, here’s some geography homework for Unitedstatsians: memorize that map on the right.
Ok, I admit I’m a huge American football fan, and it is true that the sport ultimately can trace its origins to 19th century football in ye olde England when it was all the same game. But by now it should be pretty damn obvious that calling a sport “football” when you only use your feet for three plays (kickoff, punting, and field goals) is like calling a hamburger a salad just because there’s a bit of lettuce in it. So I propose that the great sport of American football be called American handball, since most of the time the ball is in someone’s hands, not feet; or American rugby, since it is far more similar to rugby than it is to real football, better known in the US by that aberrant term, “soccer” (and any non-Unitedstatesian ever uttering the word should have their tongues cut off). Then the US can finally join the rest of the world in calling that other beautiful sport “football”, you know, the one that is actually played with the feet, the one that everyone from shantytowns of Brazil to the suburbs of Stockholm plays, and where the “World Cup” is actually played and watched by the entire world – unlike the “World Series” (this would be deserving of another entry if only for the fact that no-one really cares about baseball).
Sorry, that one had nothing to do with football but couldn’t help dropping it in.