Nanny Caesar, Ever Vigilant, Finds New Absurdities to Protect Us From

When you set yourself the task of micro-managing the perfection of the human race, nothing is too trivial to issue guidelines about.  Turns out  now that “hold down the fort”, ‘Going Dutch” and “rule of thumb” are new linguistic menaces that could offend jerks who spend all their time looking for ways to be offended.  Me: If I want to offend such people (and a large part of me does) I would not do so by such a roundabout method as using a cliche with a dubious etymological origin.  I would just say, “Hey!  Hypersensitive jerk!  You’re a human toothache!  Offended yet?”

I refuse to be held hostage to the emotional blackmail of people in desperate need of Insensitivity Training.  Happily, such people exist almost entirely in the Professionally Aggrieved Greivance Professional Community in the Hothouses of State and Academy.  No normal person goes around fretting about this rubbish.

Meanwhile, David Mitchell deals with the *real* crisis that pertains to the phrase “hold down the fort”:

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  • Skip Dean

    Dang Queen and her amazing grasp of english!

  • Andy, Bad Person

    Man, I love Boondock Saints as much as the next hyper-violent movie, but that’s made the “rule of thumb” myth widespread, too. Can’t the article writer even consult Wikipedia?

    The earliest citation comes from J. Durham’s Heaven upon Earth, 1685, ii. 217: “Many profest Christians are like to foolish builders, who build by guess, and by rule of thumb.”

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The thumb was the origin of the inch. My great-great grandmother’s passport (pre-photography) from the Grandherzogthum Baden gives her height as “5 Schuhe, 2 Daume” (five shoes, two thumbs). In ancient times it was sometimes called a “digit.”

      Forsooth, people will believe anything, as long as it accords with their beliefs.

  • Rosemarie


    Kinda like how liberals are now claiming that a whole bunch of words are “racist,” at least when used in relation to the president. Who was it who said we’ll soon have to rename Webster’s Dictionary as “The Dictionary of Racist and Offensive Words”?

  • Scott W.

    “To ‘hold down the fort’ originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders

    Because, you know, those evil white devils should have realized their crime and let themselves be tommahawked.

    • frenchcookingmama

      Um…because some Indians *were* vicious to the settlers?
      There were atrocities committed on both sides. Whitewashing the past doesn’t erase the fact that these things happened. (Oops, I’m not allowed to say whitewashing? But it’s staying!)

  • Noah D

    Wait, wait…now we’re worried about annoying the Dutch? But…they’re white?

    • not only are they white, i’m pretty sure they define whiteness, that you can’t get any whiter than Dutch.

    • Michael in ArchDen

      True story…many years ago I was in a meeting where there was a discussion of a team social event. The senior manager mentioned that this was not a company funded event and that people were “Going Dutch” I jokingly said, “No offense to people of Dutch ancestry intended, obviously” I bet he apologized to me every time I saw him for 6 months, although I always reassured him that I had not been offended and was just trying to be funny!

      • Blog Goliard

        The Dutch people I know are proud of being cheap.

  • Bill Kirby

    What Robinson doesn’t realize is that when he cites “the cautionary tale of Nike rolling out a ‘Black and Tan’ sneaker without realizing the phrase once referred to a group ‘that committed atrocities against Irish civilians'”, he is actually insulting the British army veterans of World War I and accusing them of committing atrocities against civilians (they did, but that’s beside the point, as is the fact that forts were occasionally necessary to protect the civilian populace)

    • Andy, Bad Person

      But “holding down the fort” implies that you’re going to tickle it, which cannot be tolerated.

      Never again. Never forget.

  • frenchcookingmama

    All the time they’ve wasted on wiping “insensitive” words from the American vocabulary has been for naught. How do I know this? I have a 12 yo who says that all these forbidden words are “cool”. If I show him this silly list, he and his friends will make them into the new “cool”. Defeats the whole purpose of PC and insensitivity.

    • D.T. McCameron

      Hence, the campaign against rowdiness, boyhood, genuine masculinity (a debased form is reviled yet proliferated, being pernicious but ultimately sterile).

  • bob

    Our embassy in Amsterdam will be in serious danger if we don’t stop dropping all those nasty Dutch references. You know how volatile Northern Europeans can be.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      They just need some Dutch courage to bolster themselves.

  • brian_in_brooklyn

    Wow, a suggestion is made to the people at the State Department (you know, the folks that are supposed to be diplomatic?) to watch their language in order to avoid causing needless offense–free speech is under assault!

    Puh-lease, just more faux outrage from the friendly folks at Fox.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      There’s a big difference between being diplomatic and being stupid, and the only reason needless offense is happening with these phrases is because people are being needlessly offended.

      But yeah, keep going about how Mark is a Fox shill.

  • Jamie R

    The State dept. guidelines don’t really reflect nanny-ism by the State dept. These are internal guidelines, no different from guidelines a large corporation has to shield themselves from sexual harassment liability. Even if it’s absurd that “rule of thumb” would be treated as a sexist statement, our legal system lets you bring silly lawsuits.

    • Roberto

      So, we chain ourselves to pander to a lawsuit-prone society? Nice mafia-style method, and yes, I am Italian!

    • Blog Goliard

      Our legal system also lets defendants punish people who bring silly lawsuits.

      (That, of course, does require defendants who are men and not mice.)

  • And “I could care less,” is a perfectly good way to sarcastically say, “I couldn’t care less.” It’s like saying, “Oooh, I’m all atizzy,” to imply, “I couldn’t be more bored without being dead.”

  • I would not do so by such a roundabout method as using a cliche with a dubious etymological origin.

    Dear Sir, I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms regarding your use of the word “roundabout” in such a pejorative manner. It is deeply insulting to fans of the prog-rock group YES to have the name of their 1972 Top 40 single used in this way. I await your apology.

  • LaVallette

    I object to Venetian Blind and Maltese Cross for their obvious implications!

  • Michaelus

    I would add that the term “Indian giver” is also insensitive and we ought to use “Native-American giver” in stead.

    I also suggest that the State Department send their Chief Diversity Officer on a trip to Libya to inspect the diversity of Mohammedan mobs intent on slaughtering us.

  • Those who use such terms should be hauled off in the paddy wagon.

  • But in my house full of 5 young children, the insurrection of the fort comes from within. So when I run out to do retail therapy at Target and I ask my husband to “hold down the fort” I am literally and figuratively requesting that he stamp down any rebellions as necessary. He even has permission to use tickling.