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Is using "the" in front of a group of people offensive?

AP says it is.  


Why did they need a correction? 

Posted - January 27, 2023

Responses


  • 13261
    I've never considered it, but I suppose it can be interpreted as making a prejudicial generalization of a group, such as the poor are lazy, the Italians are mobsters, the rich don't care about anyone but themselves, etc.
      January 27, 2023 8:37 AM MST
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  • 32879
    But the offensive part is not the word "the", it is the context following the "the group/label." 
    I could just as easily say: The poor work harder than most for less money. The Italians are handsome. Or the rich support many charities.   

    It is about context not the word "the." This post was edited by my2cents at February 27, 2024 12:43 PM MST
      January 27, 2023 12:04 PM MST
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  • 17451
    Ridiculous notion.  Overgeneralizing may/can be offensive but using "the" is......oh dear Lord, why am I even talking about this? 
      January 27, 2023 9:06 AM MST
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  • 845
    Exactly! There are people who can find offense in just about anything.
    *I'll call the Smiths and invite them to our barbecue.
    *The neighbors have been so helpful.
    *We found the Italians to be very hospitable when we were in Italy.
    *I donate to a local charity for the homeless every month.
    Is it any less offensive if I stopped to figure out how to say it without using "the homeless"? OK.
    *I donate to a local homeless shelter every month. (Does everyone feel better now?)
      January 27, 2023 9:19 AM MST
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  • 32879
    Exactly.   The problem is The AP has a strong influence over how our students are taught to use language.  
      January 27, 2023 12:05 PM MST
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  • 44308
    Some folks look for things to be offended about.
      January 27, 2023 9:51 AM MST
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  • 32879
    Yes they do, but they also have influence in our education system. 
      January 27, 2023 12:06 PM MST
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  • 44308
    Good or bad?
      January 27, 2023 12:11 PM MST
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  • 32879
    In this case, I would say bad.
      January 27, 2023 12:16 PM MST
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  • 2858
    If find it offensive that you didn't write, "Some folks look for things about which to be offended."
      January 27, 2023 12:39 PM MST
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  • 44308
    Thanks, Randy.
      February 27, 2024 10:56 AM MST
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  • 10049
    It's explained in the first sentence. Using "the" to describe a group of people is often dehumanizing and stigmatizing. 


      January 27, 2023 5:19 PM MST
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  • 32879
    Yes, I just disagree.  It is not about 'the', it is about the context that follows the afterwards. 

    Why did The AP feel the need to apologize to 'people from France'  but not to their other examples? 
      January 28, 2023 5:30 AM MST
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  • 10049
    As you pointed out, AP and other media influence what is taught in schools. Person or people-first language intends to lessen stigma and teach/remind us that first and foremost, we're all people. First defining us by our 'conditions' (disabled, homeless, addicted, poor, uneducated, French, Mexican, Muslim, Catholic, Black, etc.) tends to separate, stigmatize and often dehumanize. There is a great need to teach acceptance, inclusion and tolerance of people who are different from us; particularly to school children who grow up in homes that teach the opposite. I know people personally who refuse to send their children to public schools because they don't want their children to be taught acceptance, inclusion and tolerance. 

    I presume that they apologized to French people because that was the error that was made in that article or tweet. If they'd written something about 'the disabled', I'm sure they'd be apologizing for that.  


      January 28, 2023 6:58 AM MST
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  • 86
    The Trumpites is a perfectly acceptable term though.

      January 28, 2023 7:25 AM MST
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  • 10049
    No!  

    People who worship at the church of Trump would be the preferred vernacular. 
      January 28, 2023 7:28 AM MST
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  • 32879
    Nope, I am fine with The Trumpites, The Trumpians but best would be The Ultra Maga.
      January 28, 2023 3:17 PM MST
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  • 32879
    So it is ok (in The AP's opinion) to say The French or The Americans  etc.... or was there something more to the apology?

    They did write something about "the disabled" it is in the same tweet as "the French"....why apologize to French people but not disabled people, or poor people or mentally ill people, or college educated people? The AP used all of those as an example of what they believe should not be used with "the" in front of the group.  Why only "the French" rates an apology? 
      January 28, 2023 2:29 PM MST
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  • 1410
    This has got to be one of the most considerate things I've read around here.
      March 5, 2024 5:49 AM MST
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  • 1410
    It's a "style" + "guide" = it's neither about political semantics, nor about enforcing its suggestions. 

    I do find it funny that they immediately had to apologize for saying "the French," and of course that will irk the many who feel it is political correctness gone far astray, but if I started a sentence with "The Americans think..." you could safely assume that whatever were to follow wouldn't be very nuanced. 

    Most outragers will probably miss that last part of the explanation: it's not like anyone's banning the definite article - it's simply advisable to "use these descriptions only when clearly relevant."
      January 27, 2023 5:51 PM MST
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  • 32879
    It there such a difference between "The Americans" and "People from America"?  I do not think so.  It is about context. 

    No of course, they cannnot "enforce " their suggestion directly.   But The AP does have influence in how schools teach children to use language.   The companies who make the school books do pay attention to their suggestions.
      January 27, 2023 7:04 PM MST
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  • 1410
    The AP, too, is saying precisely that context matters. They merely "recommend avoiding" such terms, because they're often indicative of a phrase that could be written with greater consideration. 

    I think the bigger problem here - and it's certainly not an uncommon one - is that many people out there just want to be so indignant about "wokeness" or "PC/cancel culture" that they blow the extent of such advice out of proportion. 
      January 28, 2023 4:51 PM MST
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  • 32879
    They are trying to fix something that does not need fixing.   The poor vs people who are poor etc is the same thing.  
      January 28, 2023 5:27 PM MST
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  • 1410
    It is, in that context :)
      January 28, 2023 5:28 PM MST
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