instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"Well, I'm offended that you're offended!"

It's interesting to read the arguments for "inclusive language" etiquette in the comments below.

Many of them are based on recognizing that "inclusive language" is a matter of manners, not a matter of linguistics. People resist "inclusive language," I'm told, "just to be obstinate." "It might be a question of courtesy."

I think most of us understand that there are people who are offended by certain unmarked forms in English. I think most of us understand that offending another person is not a good intention.

But do we all understand the distinction between a thing being offensive in itself and a thing being a cause of a person being offended?

If the use of certain unmarked forms in English is not offensive in itself -- and I've heard no sound argument that it is -- then its use is a prudential matter, with any possible offense taken an unintended effect that may well be morally acceptable.

In short, manners are a social virtue that may well be trumped by moral or theological virtues. The argument from courtesy may hold some weight for direct communication, but not for such things as liturgical and Scriptural translations.