Sunday, September 28, 2008

An '-ism' by Any Other Name

I learned a valuable lesson this past weekend about the sensitivity some have for certain words.

Now, as an English teacher and a writer of several different genres, I pride myself on recognizing words which are emotionally charged. One must know the tools of one's trade, as it were, though writing editorials is most certainly more an avocation than profession for me.

After hearing the First Big 'Debate' of this never-ending election season, I chose to respond by pointing out an error by McCain in the exchange of sound bites; an error that clearly illustrated that McCain is out of touch.

(The article The First Big 'Debate' of '08 can be read here at Lexis, Nexus, Solar Plexus.)

I had also submitted the piece to It will most likely not be posted at that site because, even though I was 'strongly advised' not to use a certain word, I went ahead and submitted the article to the editors at OpEdNews with the questionable word unexpunged.

Subsequently, I got a notice from OpEdNews that, unlike the other 22 articles I've posted at that most excellent of sites, ‘The Big ‘Debate’ of ‘08’ was not acceptable; it did not meet their standards. The email rejection letter included some boilerplate blather about suggested guide-lines for editing, grammar, collocation, etc; a softly worded chastisement.

Okay, cool, I sometimes miss things. Nobody’s perfect.

It was the 'PS - NOTE' added above the signature of my rejection email, however, that zeroed in on what I must consider the actual stumbling block for my piece being accepted. It was not poor grammar or fractured syntax or serious failings in style that barred my article from the cyber-soapbox (although, this scribbler has been guilty of the aforementioned infractions). It was the use of that certain objectionable, inflammatory term which I dare not state here, my wrist having been ever-so-gently slapped by my anonymous editor at OpEdNews.

(I can give you a hint though, I suppose, as I imagine you are dying to know what word in this post-Carlin (RIP), gangsta-rap world might induce an editor to reach for the ‘reject’ stamp. It’s a seven-letter word that begins with the terminal letter of the English alphabet, includes the letters, I, O and N and ends in the suffix denoting a system of belief, government, organization, philosophy, etc; 'I-S-M', -ism.)

You can imagine my chagrin. I had been warned before I completed the submission process that the word was offensive and might lead to the rejection of the article. I felt the word was properly used and, in context, did not constitute ‘hate’ speech, so I naively ignored the caveat.

The thoughtful post-script that nudged me back onto the high road of Political Correctness was accompanied by a bit of friendly advice suggesting that perhaps I didn't quite understand the words or the concepts I was attempting to use.

I must commend the effort on the part of the anonymous, hard-working editor to steer me back to the straight and narrow. I must make my commendation and declare my appreciation for his/her taking the time for the sake of good independent journalism here at this blog because the signature of the rejection email advised that it was unmonitored. Any response in defense of my use of an apparently indefensible word would not be received or read by anyone at OpEdNews.

So, here goes…

Dear Anonymous OpEdNews Editor,

My deepest appreciation and very special thanks goes to you, my guardian PC angel.

Kiss-kiss, hug, hug! Good things…

PS NOTE: I would like to say that I do truly consider supportable the notion that a nation and a theory of political governance are two separate concepts and therefore contend that both concepts cannot be encompassed by a single lexical item. The map is not the territory, so to speak.

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