While I was reading the opinions section in last week’s Record, I came across a list of statistics dealing with Latinos. As I looked down the columns one thing stuck out at me: every instance the word “Latino” is used it was followed by “/a.” I was rather annoyed at seeing this. For those who don’t know Spanish, some explanation is necessary. There are masculine and feminine endings for words. “Latino” would be a Latin male; “Latina” would be a Latin female. However, the masculine form is also the gender neutral. The language’s grammar calls for one to say “Latino” when referring to a group of people, male or female. Why the “/a” at the end then? Two words: political correctness.
It seems that lately political correctness has been seeping into places where, frankly, I think it’s ridiculous and unnecessary. Did you know the term “actress” is being phased out and the term “actor” will now be gender neutral? In a profession where gender is important (a female role is a female role and a male role is a male role, there are no two ways about it), the advocates of political correctness still feel the need to get rid of divisions. That’s all fine and good but altering a language’s grammatical structure is excessive. Especially when the grammar is telling you “this tense is gender neutral, it means both male and female.”
Many argue that the gender neutral was based on men, making it inherently sexist. As we all know, words take on meanings of their own and so does grammar. If the same column of statistics were left without the “/a,” anyone could tell you that it was referring to all Latinos and not about men in particular. Furthermore, I know I wouldn’t have even thought of the fact that it is also the masculine form until I saw the “/a” at the end.
Political correctness is an American phenomenon. Why should we invade other cultures and change their languages’ grammar? To them, the gender-neutral form of a word is just that, not the masculine form. Yet we feel the need to tell them what’s best in this matter and then changing their language’s structure. Who are we to interfere on such a level in other cultures over such a petty affair? I mean, really, we want to change their language because it might be offensive to some people here in the United States. Do what you will to our own language, but please don’t impose our value system over something so trivial as what may or may not be offensive to others in different cultures.
Now, don’t take what I’ve written as me saying that political correctness is a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s a very good thing. It allows us to provide an environment that is comfortable for people of all genders, races and religions to exist in. However, it has the potential to be taken too far. Changing the grammatical structure of another language takes political correctness too far.
Rolando Garcia ’02