It goes without saying that I love words. I love using colorful, weighty words and I love learning new words. Not necessarily new new words—the ones that have been recently added to Merriam-Webster—but old new words. Legacy words that have been around for a long time. Perhaps words I didn’t know existed till I heard them spoken by someone wiser than I am. Words that make me feel smart and fill my soul with a sense of accomplishment. Words that take some time to incorporate into my existing vocabulary. The English language is full of such eloquent words, and I aim to voraciously devour them.
Lately, however, there seems to be an overt force trying to subtlety supplant regular, everyday words with new meanings. This force has stealthily crept into all levels of society, wending its way throughout the culture to become insidious. And it won’t be satisfied until it’s fully incorporated into every facet of our lives. Although blatant, most of us aren’t even aware it’s happening. Everywhere. Seems we’ve subconsciously adopted and started using the “new” meanings of standard words without making any effort to do so.
What words am I referring to? Let’s look at just two: Identify and Preferred. Two words that have disproportionately overtaken our recent conversations.
Today, I called to make a regular payment on a widely used credit card (an established company with a good reputation for customer service). After an inordinate amount of time navigating through the voice-activated prompts, I was connected to an offshore call center. The pleasant-sounding female on the other end greeted me with:
“Good afternoon. What is your preferred name?”
“’Preferred’ name? What do you mean?”
“What do you prefer to be called?”
“’Prefer to be called’? By my first name, of course.”
“May I call you Rochelle?”
“Yes, that is my name. I’m confused. You guys have never asked me this before.”
“What can I help you with today?”
Please tell me if I’m being unreasonable. I can handle the criticism. Or am I correct in thinking we’re now living in an alternate universe, one suddenly dominated by coerced political correctness? Because just last month, a representative from the same company greeted me by calling me Ms. Kaplan (a salutation this company has used with me for 20-plus years). Formal, professional and acceptable.
Why the sudden change? What has happened in the past month? Year? SMH
Last month I had to re-enroll (by phone) my husband and teenage son in their health plan. One of the representative’s questions was similarly strange. And inappropriate.
“What does he identify as?”
“’Identify as’?” I blurted out before regaining my senses. “He’s a boy. A male. What does this have to do with renewing his health insurance?”
The rep said she didn’t know but did divulge the company is collecting data.
Well, I can hardly blame these customer service representatives who are reading off scripts. But who wrote these scripts? Where did those people get their instructions? Why are big corporations so eager to placate the few by forcing the majority to contend with phony gender identification?
The Good Old Days
Can’t we please go back to the good old days when life was less complicated and much less contrived? If the results these companies are aiming for is equality (not equity, thank you very much) diversity and inclusion, then simple respect and acceptance goes a long way. There’s really no need to change the meaning of common words to try to achieve that. We’ve come a long way from outright legal discrimination based on race, sex, creed and religion, so let’s stop the nonsense and pretense. We’re free to be ourselves without mandating everyone publicly acknowledge our differences.
All this faux inclusion drivel is divisive and unnecessary. All I want—and I’m sure I can confidently vouch for others—is a quick and effective customer service experience on the phone, where all parties are respectful, and the customer feels valued, and their business appreciated.