When The Word Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

When last surveyed, the results were pretty clear. Hispanics didn’t care to be called Latinx.

More recently, a new, gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label, Latinx, has emerged as an alternative that is used by some news and entertainment outlets, corporationslocal governments and universities to describe the nation’s Hispanic population.

However, for the population it is meant to describe, only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves, according to a nationally representative, bilingual survey of U.S. Hispanic adults conducted in December 2019 by Pew Research Center.

It was the new, hip word that derived from all the critically important intersectional concerns that no one be offended, but ironically the people forgotten in the mix were the people being relabeled. How could Hispanics be so wrong as to not realize this was being done for their sake, to align their label with the myriad life-or-death concerns of people who weren’t Hispanic but believe it their duty to save them from themselves?

As my mother liked to say, she didn’t know she was poor because nobody ever told her. Now Hispanics were being told their label was oppressive, and here were their allies to fix it for them. Why weren’t they on their rodillas thanking their brave, fierce, perpetually on-guard allies for fixing their problematic label with a “new, gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label”?

That was then, last year, and this is now, as Gallup conducted another survey to determine whether Hispanics had woke up yet.

Oh crap, those darn Hispanics still don’t get it. Why won’t they wake up and adopt the word their unduly passionate allies want to ram down their throats for their own good?

Preferences change over time. The argument that words evolve is obviously true. The NAACP wasn’t being racist when the words “colored people” were chosen for its name. Nor was the United Negro College Fund. At various points in time, these were the preferred, the “correct,” words to use to characterize black people, and the names reflect the best choice at the time.

Note that I used “black” rather than “Black” with a capital “B,” which is now in vogue in media style guides. I do so because it’s descriptive, not a title nor a proper noun. Does it matter to a majority of black people? No one has complained to me about it. Perhaps it will evolve that black people are offended by a lower case “b,” in which case I would be happy to change so as not to offend. But while the media has decided this change is critically necessary, have black people? Do they see a problem with it? Did they ever? Or is this just media being scared to death that they not be on the cutting edge of the wokiest words lest they be labeled racist?

But this isn’t about evolution. This is about revolution. These aren’t evolving words, a thing that occurs from time to time organically because of a shift in sentiment, but because roving groups of white, college-indoctrinated pseudo intellectuals are seeking ever more pointless ways to eradicate oppression where no one wanted them to.

Many Hispanic people are proud of their language, their heritage, their past, and that includes such politically incorrect things as words that don’t end in “x” to signal their empathy and virtue to the world. They want to be who they are, who they are proud of being. They’re fine with it. Who are you, social justice warriors, to tell them they’re too stupid, unwoke, and probably a few random -ists if they don’t do what you tell them to do for their own good?

There is a possibility here that the pervasive manipulation of language in the media and by politicians to avoid being called racist and sexist by the loudest shrieker will end up driving a shift, not because anyone Hispanic wants it, but because it’s been “normalized” by constant repetition and pervasive use. For many on the left fringe, this has become a hill to take, even a mountain to die on, to “reimagine” language that eliminates all vestiges of their peculiar vision of oppression by creating some bizarre name rather than doing anything substantive.

The other day, a journalist who had done a bit (slang for prison) for drugs took a swipe at the activists who hate the words “prisoner” and “inmate,” and were demanding that actual ex-cons stop using these “dehumanizing” words.

Her reaction was both funny and brutally real. They don’t give a damn what you call them; just get them out of jail. It reminded me of a point I’ve made often, that no defendant feels better about the fact that they were sentenced to life plus cancer by a black female judge rather than a white male judge. Yet, this identitarian delusion is of critical importance to the perpetually passionate, and it’s so much easier to see from a great distance than substantive change to judges who aren’t biased against defendants, including those Hispanic ones who no more enjoy sitting in a cell forever than anyone else no matter what label the Bureau of Prisons gives them.

It’s understandable that people feel the persistent need to “do something” to “discover” and “fix” things that aren’t broken. After all, if everything is racist, then shouldn’t we replace one short word with three long ones or rid the language of a group of which they’re not a member of its colonially oppressive rules lest someone at its margins feels erased? They mean well, as do most people who would beat others into submission because they believe that their passionate grievances demand change, and if the beneficiaries of their virtuous largesse aren’t as enlightened as they are, is it not their duty to ram their fix down other people’s throats?

Maybe, if enough people use the word “Latinx” enough, if the media normalizes this word lest black-clad protesters break down the doors of the Associated Press, it will become the new normal. But if so, it won’t be because Hispanic people asked for it, or the language simply “evolved.” Just because it’s new and different, just because it’s change, does not make it progress.

As the old joke went, “call me anything but late for dinner.” Why can’t the woke let Hispanic people choose their own label, including keep the one they already use and prefer? The word “Hispanic” works fine for “Latinx.” Don’t fix it.

27 thoughts on “When The Word Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

  1. orthodoc

    Latinx is quite literally a shibboleth –a word whose use identifies someone as a member of a particular group. In the story told in the bible (or is it Bible? or Reviled Text of the Patriarchy?) pronouncing it “Sibboleth” had you tagged as an Ephraimite and got you killed.

    Here too, enunciating it “Latino”, or worse “Hispanic”, identifies the speaker as what Hemmingway called ‘tumbril-bait’. The users of the word “Latinx” are saying nothing about their subject and everything about which team they are on. The meaning of word, “a person of Latin American origin”, has no more relevance than the translation, “a stalk of wheat”, has in the  Judges 12 tale.

  2. Keith Lynch

    I’ve always opposed the term “ex-offender,” since it implicitly defines the wrongfully convicted out of existence. As a wrongfully convicted person, how am I supposed to truthfully answer the question as to whether I’m an ex-offender?
    The Washington Post has started capitalizing both black and white, and replacing “slaves” with “enslaved persons.” Annoying, but the meaning is clear. What’s really bad is that they’ve replaced “slave owner” with “enslaver.” The latter falsely implies that the person turned a non-slave into a slave, which is a far more serious accusation.

  3. delurking

    “We need to do something about sexism”.
    “Uh, OK, let’s do that.”
    “I know, let’s come up with a new gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label for people from Latin America.”
    “Uh, is that really the best use of our time?”
    “Of course, don’t you know that language affects culture? If we had a new gender-neutral pan-ethnic label for people from Latin America, it would reduce the systemic sexism built into our culture.”
    “Uh, but you just used a gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label for people from Latin America: Latin. You know, like Latin food, Latin dance, Latin culture, Latin people. We’ve had it all our lives”.
    “But that’s not a NEW gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label. If we just use that we won’t have done anything about sexism. We need to DO something about sexism. Let’s add an X to Latin.”

  4. Lee Keller King

    My unscientific informal poll of my Hispanic and Latino friends indicates that many of them are actively offended by the use of the shibboleth Latinx (once they are made aware of the existence of the term). Their general take is, who the hell are these people adulterating their beautiful language?

    1. Hunting Guy

      Beat me to it.

      I have Hispanic ancestry and take great delight in correcting the idiots that use the term Latinx.

  5. B. McLeod

    The same, self-appointed word and thought police who decided what terms are offensive to [Ed. Notes] without asking [Ed. Notes]. Once they have spoken, who can disaffirm? When the dogma is set forth, what can turn it back? The proclamations of the woke cannot be averted, but their silliness is promulgated still.

  6. John Burger

    “Hispanic” is out. That word only includes those of Spanish (as in Spain) origin and ignores those of Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, and French heritage. Get with the program. The preferred term is “People from Colonialist, Racist, Imperialistic, and Hegemonic Western European Places whose Sole Purpose and Existence is to Dominate, Subjugate, and Eliminate Nativist and Indigenous Populations with Disease, by Force, and by Genocide (if necessary)”. I know it’s a bit long, but you can shorten it to “White Males are the Scourge”.


  7. Hal

    A bit off topic, but hopefully amusing enough to escape censure, but a few years ago my dog barked at a woman and her children. I don’t know if the kids had actually touched my car (which generally would elicit some barking) or were just making a lot of noise near it, but Peyton stuck her head out the window and barked at them. I heard the barking and came to investigate.

    The woman had been startled and was upset. I apologized, but this was apparently insufficient and I didn’t appreciate what a trying and traumatic experience this was to her and her children. I said something like “Dogs bark. Get over it”. She replied “You are the embodiment of the patriarchy!”,

    I wish I’d had the presence of mind to reply: “Mois? I’m so woke that I only watch porn that will pass the Bechdel test”, but that in “l’esprit de escalier” occurred to me only later.

    When I related this to a friend she told me I should have “Embodiment of the Patriarchy” t-shirts made up.

    I never did, but if there’s enough interest, could make a limited run and denote any profits to SJ (or invest in maple bacon donuts or Bowmore Scotch).

    1. SHG Post author

      Not only was it an amusing story, but how could I trash a comment that used one of my all-time favorites, “l’esprit de escalier”?

        1. Hal

          Hal’s the name I was given. Peyton was the name she came w/. She was a rescue from “For the Love of Dog” (shameless plug, but they do good work in a noble cause) and had been abused. I didn’t change her name because I didn’t want to add to her stress, and I hadn’t yet figured out that dogs don’t care what you call them. I know, for a bright guy I can be a little slow at times.


          I know I may be abusing your patience and earn an especially scathing version of “Cool story, bro”, but I beg your indulgence.

          I was walking Peyton in a sort of park, 10-12 acres, mostly neatly mowed grass w/ gravel paths where they allowed dogs to run free. This was in a pretty affluent area and there was a young mother rolling her baby around in a stroller that cost more than my first car. It had knobby mountain bike tires, robber over-molded extruded aluminum handles, and headlights! I shit thee not.

          Because Peyton was a Rotweiller and had issues, I put a great deal of effort into training her and used an e-collar. She was an especially well trained dog. I could see this woman was uneasy so as Peyton and I wandered around, I’d call “Over here” whenever she got close to the this woman, and she’d loop back towards me. This happened at least a half a dozen times.

          Finally, this woman asked me “Does your dog like children?”.

          I’d developed a bit of a resentment to this designer clad woman w/ her Land Rover of a stroller, and this time didn’t have suffer “l’esprit de l’escalier” and got off a pretty good line.

          “Oh, she loves them,” I said, “But unless they’re really small, she can never finish a whole one.”

          It turns out that those strollers have a really tight turning radius.

          1. Jim P

            My reply was a slight dig at Mr. Seaton who is a big TN Vols fan, but is still a very funny writer. Peyton was the famous TN QB. I hoped CLS would read it.

    2. orthodoc

      I am grateful for that awesome line, “so woke that I only watch porn that will pass the Bechdel test”, which should be a twitter bio for somebody. (but doesn’t the ‘don’t talk with your mouth full’ rule interfere with its application?)

  8. Bryan Burroughs

    You’re clearly missing the stunning rise of the acceptance of this wonderful new word among the diaspora. Why, your own numbers point to a 66% rise in its use among Latinx people in just the last year!

  9. Pedantic Grammar Police

    This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature. Fixing what isn’t broken is what progressives do. Why do you hate progress?

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