How Do You Say Merry Christmas in European?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It looks like Christmas is back on for the long-suffering employees of the European Union. And they can again — at least for now — make reference to Joseph and Mary — not to mention Jesus. And wish their Jewish friends a happy Hanukkah.
For the European commissioner for equality, Helena Dalli, has reversed her ban on politically incorrect phrases, which would have made it unacceptable for European officials to use in official publications Christian names and honorifics like Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Instead they would have had to default to more ostensibly cosmopolitan-sounding titles and Mx.
This is not the first time that the EU or a member state has dabbled in an Orwellian attempt to politicize language. Debates over semantics — with comical attempts to make gendered language gender-neutral — are a persistent feature of the German and French political milieus.
President Mitterand of France, I’m told, once tried to ban the use of English phrases in French commerce. When, at the end of the press conference at which he announced the project, he was asked whether he could be quoted, he replied: “Non. C’est off the record.”
Commissioner Dalli issued her language guidelines earlier this month. Her démarche, though, could be the first time that a commissioner has retreated so quickly in the face of ridicule throughout the bloc. There might be hope for the European project yet.
The instructions urged European officials to “update their language” and avoid expressions that referenced gender, ethnic background, and culture. “We must ensure that everyone is valued and recognised,” Mx. Dalli ordained.
Rather than use “his” or “her,” European officials were to use “their.” So “his country of origin” would become “their country of origin.” Terms such as “man-made” and “ladies and gentlemen” were to be replaced with ostensibly neutral phrases like “human-induced” and “dear colleagues.” A “chairman” or “chairwoman” was simply to be called a “chair.”
The New York Sun’s stylebook bans such deconstructions explaining: “An airman may not be referred to as an ‘air’ nor a policewoman referred to as a ‘police’ nor a fireman as a ‘fire’ nor an assemblywoman as an ‘assembly’ nor — again — a chairman as a confounded ‘chair.’”
Blinded by political correctness, the European Commission seemingly lost all sense of proper grammar — an astute elementary school student would be quick to point out that “their” references multiple persons and “his” and “her” applies to the singular.
Even more regrettably, in its recommendations the Commission was stripping away the very linguistic qualifiers that capture true diversity and distinguish homo sapiens from other creatures and things. One would be remiss not to note that a ‘chair’ is something sat upon, and not a leader of any kind.
The now-rescinded EU language guidebook is the latest example of the “woke” orthodoxy, which aims to avenge the ostensible sins of history’s oppressors — whites, males, Christians, Jews, conservatives — through a kind of linguistic gymnastics designed to muddle their identities to the point of non-existence. Only when all peoples become carte blanches could adherents to this new dogma become what the guidebook calls a “union of equality.”
The commissions’s proposals went so far as as to require that, say, “Maria” and “John” be replaced with “Malika and Julio.” Use of the word “Christmas” was also sanctioned, to be replaced with the generic “holiday times.” What implications such open-mindedness would have had for other contenders like Hanukkah and Ramadan is unclear, though it is doubtful they would emerge unscathed.
A separate section of the manual tackled the issue of colonialization, and of Europe itself. The expressions “colonisation of Mars” and “human settlement on Mars” were considered insensitive and inappropriate in light of European history. Instead, “sending humans to Mars” was to be used. Whether Mx. Musk had been made aware of his protracted semantic offensives is not known.
The London Telegraph quoted what it called sources in Brussels as saying that the guidebook “was rejected by Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission’s president, before it was withdrawn.” The Telegraph reported that the withdrawn publication was widely mocked by right-wing politicians across the EU. It quoted Marine Le Pen as saying: “These technocrats show their real face: that of an enemy to our identities, our roots, our traditions.”
In issuing her retraction, Mx. Dalli said that the guidebook was “not a mature document” and “clearly needs more work.” It is distressing to consider what additional modifications Mx. Dalli has in mind. After “colleagues” and “chair” what could possibly come next?