Ignorance is bliss, or at least it used to be. However, times have changed, and as they do, so should our language.
Nowadays, to be ignorant of something in a world where all forms of information are available in seconds (depending on your internet speed) would leave you in a world of pain. We can, with careful source selection, load knowledge into ourselves almost as if we were in the Matrix. This means that should we be ignorant of something, people around us would certainly let us know about it, taking us far away from bliss.
To achieve the bliss expected in the phrase, one would have to go and live under a rock on the Outer Hebrides, alone. So does this then mean that the phrase is redundant and removed from the language? And if so, is it alone?
As the world progresses in line with technological developments, should we be taking phrases and language into our own hands, and forcing the change that is required? Or, as is more natural, let language evolve at its own rate, and leave redundant expressions and phrases by the wayside?
Language Replacement Services
As we evolve, so does our language; it requires fluidity. However, in some set expressions, that fluidity is not so easy because they are so ingrained in society that it is almost impossible to notice them. In a recent post on here, a colleague points out a few terms that are sexist, but deeply ingrained. The problem is not limited to sexism – it comes into all the good fights that good people are fighting: racism, LGBTQ+ rights, refugees. The list is long.
As linguists all over the globe come to terms with new gender definitions, and how to incorporate them into languages with genders, we can count ourselves lucky, since English does not have gender-specific articles for nouns. We simply dropped the ‘man’, for example, and replaced it with ‘officer’ or ‘person’. Thus, policeman becomes police officer and spokesman becomes spokesperson.
However, with phrases, it becomes a little tougher, though potentially more fun for creative minds. Saying a word or phrase is now redundant or no longer PC, which is all well and good, but something will need to fill the void in the language that is then left by that phrase. And it cannot be an emoji, I veto that option.
Information is bliss
This does not quite have the same ring to it. However, if we are to change language, making sure everyone is informed will make sure that people can blissfully avoid a faux pas. Simple, right? Making sure everyone is well and correctly informed.
In the aforementioned article, the writer touched on ‘man-flu’ as a sexist expression. This is the tip of the ‘iceberg’ (more on that later) of man-related expressions. ‘Man up’, ‘grow a pair’ and ‘man-on’, all spring to mind when I think of my personal daily vocabulary.
Man up. This is usually employed between ‘lads’ to encourage one to be more manly. It goes hand in hand with ‘Don’t be such a pussy’. Both phrases are horrendous. An easy replacement would be ‘woman up’, because let’s face it, going through pregnancy takes some balls.
Grow a pair. Somehow, this is workable. While the implication is testicles, we could start to imply ovaries. My testicles do not put me through anywhere near the amount of trouble that many of my friends’ ovaries put them through on a monthly basis.
Man-on. One of my weekly activities is 5-a-side football (sometimes incorrectly referred to as soccer), and recently, a young lady has joined. We are rarely on the same team. She likes to make my life difficult during the game. She’s good (not as good as my sister, mind you – she had a right foot that struck fear into the whole village) and more often than not plays in defense, meaning that I often have to shout ‘Man-on’ when she closes down my teammates. Then I panic, and start subconsciously trying to shout ‘wo-man on’. But this is not ingrained in me. It takes a few extra seconds to stumble out of my mouth, meaning that it usually comes a little too late as a warning. She really makes my life difficult in football.
Hold the dog and bone…
This is all well and good, but society has changed drastically over the last few years. Simply reassessing everything to have both a male and female version does not cut it. There are many people who do not relate to either and relate to anywhere in the middle. So we really are just touching the tip of the iceberg.
However, add climate change to the mix, melting icebergs into extinction and potentially from human memory is this phrase on the road to redundancy. If we were to forget what icebergs were, only remembering that the tip of one once sunk a ship, then the phrase would evolve into something more threatening. Could we replace it by ‘it’s just the start of the root’? But what happens once we have destroyed the forests?
Well, Jesus, now we are in a spot of bother. Hold the phone (it is hard to imagine us living without a phone at the minute, so I guess this one can stay) – as an atheist, am I allowed to say ‘Jesus’? Or is that restricted to those who recognize him as an icon or figure within their religions? Or should it be the other way round, and is that not then insulting to the three religions? Oh God, this is some rollercoaster.
Wait, which God?
A rambling end.
We could try and invent new phrases, but this would require a complete rewiring of the human psyche. With English spread as far as it has, this would be nay on impossible. Alternatively, we could try and reinvent their meaning, such as this effort from the BBC to reinvent ‘manning–up’ to be talking about themes seen previously as ‘unmanly’.
However, as with a lot of things in the world, no matter what happens, we will tread on some toes along the way. God forbid we lose our toes. Someone will get upset, but this in itself will cause a natural evolution of the language and phrases we use. This could be significantly more successful than trying to force the change, which then receives opposition from both sides.
It’s either that or we stop talking altogether. Maybe ignorance would be bliss after all.