English, I am Disappoint

Before we start, yes, I fully grasp the irony of what I’m about to write under the above, meme-derived title.

On the way home from work today I mashed my car stereo’s “on” button and settled in for the return commute.  A few minutes into the drive, after dodging idiots who managed to get a license without ever learning how to merge onto a freeway, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” came on the local rock station to which the radio was tuned.

I’d heard the song several billion times, so I wasn’t really paying it much attention, but for some reason the line “I won’t take no prisoners, won’t spare no lives / Nobody’s putting up a fight” jumped out at me.  And as many things tend to lately, something about it irked me.  After a moment or two of trying to ferret out of my subconscious why that was, I finally figured it out.  But instead of just coming out with the reason, I’m going to explain via dialogue.

Corporate office, Acme Corp: Blue Widget Division

Larry: So, Steve, it seems Jill’s your best candidate for Second Level Co-Under Manager, Team B.  She’s a real “take no prisoners” kind of gal!

Steve: Really?  Because that’s definitely what this company needs, a woman who’ll go into meetings armed only with a smile and a Mont Blanc fountain pen and brutally murder everyone in the room while ignoring pleas for mercy.  Heck, the entire Blue Widgets Division would benefit greatly from having her slay half the accounting team up on the third floor, I tell you.

Larry: Whaa, no… I just meant she gets things done.  I… uhh, have to make a phone call.  Back in a bit, stay right here.

So yeah, that’s the gist of my irked status at the moment.  I realize that language is a living thing, and that meanings change constantly.  I also realize that a significant portion of our population doesn’t grasp this, especially the people who are responsible for the asinine progression of cripple -> handicapped -> disabled -> differently-abled -> etcetera.  I’m not even really sure why I’m writing this, except to do some digital stick-shaking about grammatical kids on my virtual lawn.

Maybe the point here is that it’s one thing to try and change terms in a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to make people feel better about a shitty situation.  But it’s a completely different thing to take a term or phrase that should bring to mind images of medieval-style  burning, raping, and pillaging, and apply it to a business setting; especially one with mandatory “sensitivity training” and HR policies about sharing refrigerator space.

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