I found myself using the term "Irish Twins" to define some family members of mine (who use the terms for themselves) and the person I was talking to said that I shouldn't use such offensive language. I was so in shock, by that statement that I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how to wrap my head around how alien that sentiment was to me. But I decided to see how the public at large thought.
(Here is a simple definition and origin for a place to start.)http://multiples.about.com/od/glossary/g/irishtwins.htm
Now I found a lot of interesting discussions about “Irish Twins.” The most interesting to me was the medical/psychological site trying to decide if “Irish Twins” should be considered twins for the sake of mapping development. And to sum it up the answer is a resounding “sometimes.” (To me this undeniably confirms that a term is needed for this situation.)
I found many who approve of the term, those who fit the definition or whose children did. Some of whom are even Irish!
But nowhere did I find anyone who said they take offence, themselves, to this term.
This is where I found the most interesting discussion on the topic and I wanted to write this in response:http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-irish-twins.htm
I find the last sentence in your opening paragraph to be quite confusing considering the name of this site. Are you unaware that the term "Geek" was coined in a derogatory fashion? Originally used for people so odd that they should have a carnival act, the word found a new meaning in the 70s as technology & scientific knowledge increased. Certain clicks needed a word to define these socially inept, people that preferred the company of “flashing lights” to members of their own species.
(See: word origins section: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/geekhttp://www.answers.com/topic/geek
I can jest at this because I consider myself a geek. I’m full aware of the negative connotations it had and still has to some people. But some people take offence to the word “short.” (Of which I’m in that category as well.) I don’t think that just because someone at some point took offence, or even intended offence by use of a certain words means that it should leave the common (polite) vocabulary. For in fact if we did blacklist all words that were begot from man’s darker side or dwelt there at some point, I’d venture a guess that, 50% or more of the nouns commonly spoken in the world today would be “stricken from polite conversation”.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with you that we shouldn’t use words to offend anyone, but what I’m endeavoring to do is point out the difference between using a term as a weapon as opposed to the use of it as a description. The first is only in rare cases (for I personally restrict my use of the word never) acceptable, the later is most often used as a simple means of communication.
For instance: “When you show up to get your tickets, first go to Henry, the tall black man in the red jacket. He will check you off the list and give you your parking pass and priority number. Then go to Jack, the Irishmen in the kippah. He will find seats based on your priority number and give you those tickets.”
This simple set of instructions could be found as derogatory to some people but most individuals would say it is simply put clear set of instructions.
So what I’m saying is that it’s intent, not the word itself, that is dangerous and hurtful. We, as humans, need to adjust our feelings and motives rather than our vocabulary. Restricting the use of a word and not doing anything about the hateful feelings of those using it, is akin to treating the symptoms and not the disease. This will only result in the coining or redefining of a new term to be just as derogatory.
Such as terms for cigarette, little bird, singular, off-center and happy were successively redefined to words to be derogatory terms for homosexuals.
Faggot (1914) - Fag (1921) - Homo (1929) - Queer (1935) - Gay (1971)http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=faggot&searchmode=none http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=homo&searchmode=none http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=queer&searchmode=none http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=gay&searchmode=none
Hate can be and usually is a cruel, overwhelming as well as obsessively consuming emotion and those words that are used in hate can have detrimental effects, not only on the target but also the witnesses and even on the wielder. The pen and the sword are historical rivals, both tools we homo sapiens are so fond of using, but like any tool from a wheel to a gun, a remark can build or destroy. Choosing to take offence to a word used to describe, is the problem of the offended. If the wielder is wrong and the term doesn’t apply, such as calling someone gay when they are not, then the person who is the target should choose to take no more offense than when someone calls an elephant, a bird. For when you take offense to a word that a person used a term to describe, especially when the user is apathetic or ignorant of its origin, simply because you remember the hate someone else intended in its usage, just keeps the hate alive and growing. I do understand that some words are coined or redefined to definitions that hold such newly raw, painful emotions, that even if the person doesn’t take offence, the emotional memory is profound enough to cause a distraction from any communication. And I entreat the speaker to be aware of this, and to temporarily refrain from the use of those words, because in this case, to continue my medical metaphor from above, even though I support that we shouldn’t choose to treat the disease in this fashion, we shouldn’t ignore the symptoms just not prolong the pain while working on the disease, the symptoms will heal on their own.
It’s important to understand that words used in hate are a different matter and in this article I make no comment, suggestion or judgment on any action a person might take, for dealing with hate. It is outside the scope of this work. However, I implore you to listen and endeavor to seek understanding before taking offense, and to take none where none is given, because, hate is the enemy, not our fellow man.