As we write, the Christmas season is upon us. You remember Christmas. That was the ever-so-slightly Christian holiday that children and retailers loved. Santa. Toys. A few weeks off from school. Like so many other quaint practices of our civilization, however, Christmas seems to be on the way out. It’s not just the activities of entities like the ACLU who cannot gaze upon a crèche in a town without being overcome by an irresistible impulse to sue someone. The anti-Christmas Geist is just another expression of that politically correct “multiculturalism” that is wafting through our culture like a corrosive fog. Our friend Mark Steyn alerted us to the latest evidence of its progress. It comes from the mighty online retailer Amazon.com, which has been advertising a special music sale called “The Twelve Days of Holiday.”
Twelve days of what? This is what happens when you bend over backwards to mollify multicultural sensitivities. The linguistic absurdity (“On the first day of holiday, my true love gave to me …”) is not fortuitous: It is the presenting symptom of that pathology that underlies the whole enterprise of multiculturalism.
It gets worse. Mr. Steyn reports that a reader who complained to Amazon about the excision of the word “Christmas” received this canned response from Amazon:
Please accept our sincere apologies if you were offended by the use of the word “Christmas” on our website. Our intention in referring to Christmas is to give specific ordering guidance for a specific holiday, not to exclude other faiths.
Not, we hasten to add, that Amazon.com is alone in its effort to toe this politically correct line. Consider, for example, the new English children’s dictionary published by Oxford University Press. As the London Telegraph recently reported, the new reference work has dropped many words “associated with Christianity, the monarchy, and British history.” Banished are such words as “aisle” (those things running between lines of pews), “bishop,” “chapel,” “empire,” and “monarch.” But the junior dictionary is happy to welcome such newcomers as “blog,” “broadband,” and “celebrity.”
The Telegraph quotes Professor Alan Smithers from Buckingham University: “We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable. The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us.”
“Interesting” is one word for it. “Dismaying” might be more to the point, or even “horrified,” the word applied by one mother who has tallied differences among junior dictionaries going back to 1978. It’s not only words that carry and help preserve Britain’s religious heritage and identity as a Christian nation: also gone missing are words that describe the natural environment. “Moss” and “fern” and “sycamore” are out in favor of words from the realm of virtual reality: “MP3 player,” for example, and “voicemail,” and “chatroom.”
It may seem like a small thing that Amazon advertises a “Twelve Days of Holiday” sale or that Oxford jettisons words from the realm of (Christian) religion and the natural world in order to make room for the technical koine of computer gadgetry. In fact, it is a small thing. But it is also a minatory one. “Verbal engineering,” as another friend put it, “always precedes social engineering.”
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 27 Number 5, on page 1
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