"Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical, liberal minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end." - Source Unknown
Political correctness was born at least somewhat eccentric, but in the hands of government departments it has reached the point of being absolutely barking mad. Living in an era where causing offense is a criminal act or at least likely to cause litigation though, it pays to be a little cautious.
The US State Department seems to think so, at least according to column in their in house magazine. There are warnings against using terms like, “Hold the fort,” “Going Dutch,” and “rule of thumb,” because of historical connotations, derivations, and anything else which may justify a few more column inches of blather:
… "How many times have you or a colleague asked if someone could 'hold down the fort?'" he wrote. "You were likely asking someone to watch the office while you go and do something else, but the phrase's historical connotation to some is negative and racially offensive.”It sure sounds like someone has a sinecure and hasn’t enough to do to while away the idle hours. It is interesting that the State Department has little knowledge of when forts first came into existence, along with the order to hold them. Otherwise, they might be fretting at the offence caused to the decedents of the Germanic tribes at the Roman use of it, or perhaps it was used by the ancient Samarians against whoever.
He explained: "To 'hold down the fort' originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders. In the territories of the West, Army soldiers or settlers saw the 'fort' as their refuge from their perceived 'enemy,' the stereotypical 'savage' Native American tribes.”
He singled out another phrase, "Going Dutch," as a "negative stereotype portraying the Dutch as cheap.”
And "rule of thumb," he wrote, can according to women's activists refer "to an antiquated law, whereby the width of a husband's thumb was the legal size of a switch or rod allowed to beat his wife.” Further, he explained, "If her bruises were not larger than the width of his thumb, the husband could not be brought to court to answer for his behavior because he had not violated the 'rule of thumb’.”
He went on to urge caution over the word "handicap," as some disability advocates "believe this term is rooted in a correlation between a disabled individual and a beggar, who had to beg with a cap in his or her hand because of the inability to maintain employment.” …
Terms today are used in today’s context as we speak the language currently. There may be certain people who seek out historical connotations in order to be suitably offended by them. Such people are generally regarded in today’s context as neurotics, or in the case of legal action, rent-seekers.