The Devil's Advocate (Michael TDA) has responded to our article on Harvard University's submission to the will of its student body by agreeing to drop the word "master".
Here's Michael TDA's story.
Basic politeness suggests we do what we can easily do to make others more comfortable
“I guess that means masterful must go, too.”
“ … people with Master's Degrees better hand them back then.”
“I thought mastering a subject was a compliment.”
“ … a chain-store called Masters …”
“Don't [they] realize that many words in the English language have more than one definition?”
All the above comments display the same mistake. The report does not say any of these protesting students are against the idea that someone can be the master of various skills; the report does not say these students are against anyone mastering any subject or any inanimate object. What the students don’t like is the idea of someone being “the Master” of other people.
Slaves didn’t call the overseer “master” because they admired the way he had “mastered” the easy but brutal task of inflicting punishments. Slaves were required to call the overseer “Master”, because it reinforced their subservience; it reminded everyone who was the slave and who was “The Boss”.
The ‘House Master’ at the university is not called “master’ because he has mastered the art of house; he is called master because he has authority over the students. And it is easy to see that this word, used this way, has unpleasant connotations to students whose grandparents, and great-grandparents had to bow and scrape for fear of unjust, arbitrary retribution from ”The Man”.
Changing the term from “House Master” to “faculty dean” is not an onerous burden on those of us not descended from slaves, and basic politeness suggests we do what we can easily do to make others more comfortable.
Long-time readers will know that MTDA is a proxy for the thoughts of Ms Gillard and her ilk. I don't often easily see the logic on that side of politically divisive issues but in this case I do.
I suppose it's possible that a word might trigger generational or inherited upset (like master to the descendants of slaves). The feeling wouldn't be one of imminent or continuing hurt, just a reminder of what past generations went through. If we accept that logic and move to "do what we can easily do to make others more comfortable", how much more compelling is the case for banning contemporary references to continuing, visceral and immediate threats to our lives from Mohammedans?
Islam means to submit. The idea of submission to the Islamic State is revolting to me. So is the life of its first patriarch, the Paedophile psychopath Mohammed. English has adopted many words from other languages, here's one:
There are lots of things I would like to see banned. Islam is one.