The Mystery of the Colorful Language

I voted yesterday and wore my "I Voted" sticker with pride. I love participating in the electoral process as a citizen and am always proud of the people who volunteer to serve as election judges and those who picket outside for their candidates, even if I don't always agree with their politics. I got to meet some of my current congress people outside of the polling center, which I admit, had a little bit of star quality to it. I don't like when people don't vote or complain that both parties are corrupt and then do nothing. If you believe that strongly, then do something. Run for an office yourself or support someone uncompromised whom you believe in for a small race at the local level. I wonder whether most of the Internet jockeys who complain that their representatives are socialists or nazis are just intellectually lazy—although it can be prone to waste, government does serve a purpose, and our representatives do a lot of good things for a lot of people. In fact, I find that people who complain about how everybody is a "crook" and it doesn't "matter" usually know the least about the political process.

I don't mean to stand on this soapbox (who put that here)? But while I'm here, I was reading an older version of a Nancy Drew mystery the other night (1940's The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk) and on page 86 came across the phrase "It was deserted save for a colored maid, who insisted that no one had been there." I don't want to repeat the point already made about the representations of minorities in American literature (I also noticed Asians being referred to as "Orientals" in another pre-1960 Nancy Drew mystery), particularly since these books were edited and cleaned up in the 1960s. Instead, it reminded me of my grandparents, who, when I was little, would say the word "colored" an awful lot. Although they were usually corrected by my parents or other adults, at some point I was told just to ignore my grandparents and not to correct them because they were "set in their ways." I don't want to argue this point, either, of whether this was good advice (I received similar advice about whether or not to reveal my sexuality to them).

The generational evolution of semantics is interesting, though. Maybe twenty years from now, the use of "black" will be unacceptable (although it's currently in good standing with the American Medical Association Manual of Style), and people will admonish or correct those people from whose mouths it will invariably slip. And even now there's the distinction between "colored person" and "person of color." Try explaining the difference to a non-native speaker. Maybe my grandparents weren't really racist so much as stuck in the past. I find myself more and more resistant to the "new" language of the younger generations—text acronyms, cultural phrasings, etc. I hate the world "chillax" with a passion.

I'm not trying to make excuses for my grandparents here—just reading this book gave me a different perspective on things.