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Fighting Bradbury's PC Flare-Up

A passing thought: among the many homages to Ray Bradbury being published today, a significant number of them mention “Fahrenheit 451” (1953).

As ChiTrib critic Julia Keller describes it, "Fahrenheit 451 is a cautionary tale about the insidious creep of censorship; its sinister evocation of a world in the maybe-not-so-distant future in which firefighters are employed to burn books is startlingly plausible."

My quibble, with her and the others: Okay, we're no longer supposed to use the term "fireMEN" today, politically (nor, given the mixed-gender nature of the job today, accurately) speaking.

But in this context, "fireFIGHTERS" is a ludicrous term --and, of course, was not the one Bradbury used-- for an occupation that fictionally morphed into one where the job was to start a fire and burn books.

Might it be possible to suspend PC terminology in just this one instance, if only to avoid looking goofy?

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Julia Keller's Response...

I offered Julia Keller a chance to respond, and --gracious as always-- she did. Here's her e-mailed reply: *** 7 June 2012, 6:58 AM CDT--- Dear Earl,

At first I skimmed your note and thought, "Oh, geez, some malcontent who doesn't understand the strides made by our nomenclature as we attempt to be gender-sensitive and . . . "

And then I thought about your point.

You're absolutely right. "Firefighter," in relation to "Fahrenheit 451," makes no sense. As you point out, he didn't fight them; he started them.

My hat is off to you. So often we use words carelessly -- and by "we," I mean, of course, "me."

Thank you for writing.