There is a cultural dynamic that I am trying to identify. It has something to do with victimization and political correctness in the language we use. The brief report from http://www.thisistrue.com, cited below, brought it to the top of my consciousness again, which was already stimulated by my growing awareness that the no-holds-barred language of the recent presidential campaign in the USA had cracked the dam of linguistic propriety and continues to flood us all with vulgarian language at almost every level of discourse.
Iron Bar Hotel Division:
In the early 2000s, the Washington State Department of Corrections dropped the word “inmate” in favor of the more friendly “offender.” But now that word is tainted. “Unfortunately, what starts out as a technical term, used to generically describe the people in our care, becomes and is enforced as a stereotype,” wrote DOC Acting Secretary Richard Morgan in a memo to staff. “This is something we can address.” Instead of “offender,” he has directed staff to call the “people in our care” different words depending on where they’re being held: “students” if they’re taking classes, “patients” if they’re in the infirmary. Otherwise, just “individuals” will do. The DOC says the trend started in Pennsylvania. (RC/Seattle Times)
...And thus the demonization
of the “individual” has begun.
It feels to me like there is a "me too" predilection for being a victim, perhaps because we fear that those who are, or who pose as victims are, in fact, gaining too much power and we don't want to be left out. What makes some words deteriorate into forbidden stereotypes while others become meaningless through overuse? Enlighten me someone!