Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Political Correctness and Perceptions

What does the word "dumb" mean? Almost always, you'll interpret it as "stupid". But at dictionary.com, there are 10 definitions, 5 of which refer to an alternate meaning: "unable to speak". It's also noted that using "dumb" in this way for humans is "often offensive".

And for that reason the "unable to speak" definition is falling out of our collective consciousness. But the phrase "dumb animals" lives on. Only it is taking on a new meaning, one that says animals are stupid. The phrase simply was supposed to mean that animals don't speak our language.

But in the course of researching a new book on animal psyches, I found the phrase being used repeatedly by a number of people to indicate that animals are lacking in brain power. This is what "dumb" means to people now, and they have heard the phrase "dumb animals" over and over.

Animals don't use our language, so they are dumb, in the incresingly archaic sense of being unable to speak our language.

We do use our language, but are seldom aware of how it colors our perceptions.

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