Have you ever said something, harmlessly, without meaning to offend someone, who then went on to take it as a personal jab at their step-uncle’s second cousin?
It seems as if today, one can’t be too careful with what one says about anything, to anyone, ever. People have developed skin the thickness of a piece of dental floss, and every single word uttered offers a new challenge to find something to be offended by.
Words are misconstrued, sentences are taken personally, and people proudly come up to you and say “You offended me.”
But let’s take a step back and really get to the base of this issue. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “offended” as: “resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.” Perceived being the operative word here…
Whether or not the offense was intentional, you are painted with the same brush as a bigot, sexist or anti-Semite. But this is the world in which we live, where being offended now directly equates to a status. Once someone has told you that they are offended, you and everyone around will begin to feel the pressure that you must now do something to atone for your sin. You must either apologise profusely, beg, grovel, or even whip yourself if you’re really dedicated, but some how you must now attempt to right this perceived wrong.
In reality, actively finding things to be offended by is a clear sign that your life is too comfortable, and that you probably don’t have enough real struggles to contend with. Ironically, while looking up the definition of offended, I also came across the usage of the word over time. It went from quite high in the pompous, aristocratic 1800s, and decreased steadily to an all-time low around 1990, only to start rising again from 2000 onwards.
Ironic then that the usage of the word decreased and almost became extinct during the time: women were the most oppressed, people that don’t identify with the gender binary were oppressed and possibly killed, people of colour were oppressed and possibly killed, Jim Crow laws happened, the Civil Rights Movement happened, MLK and Malcolm X happened, Rosa Parks happened, the Second World War happened, Nagasaki and Hiroshima happened, Apartheid happened.
Funny then that throughout the most oppressive periods of time in human history, the word “offended” was used the least. Funny that now, when the world, though far from perfect, is the most politically-correct and offense-free that it has been (bar the orange man leading the US), that more and more people are finding things to be “offended” by.
I am a young Linguistics graduate nursing an irrational obsession with cars. My love-affair with anything on four wheels currently takes the shape of an ancient Mk1 Golf … Read more