Has the term "slave" become politically incorrect?

I was watching a lecture on CSPAN by an author about her biography of a 19th century woman. At one point she says, “Many people didn’t know that slaves did ordinary things like writing letters”. Moments later she mutter something that might have been some kind of apology, and restates the sentence as “Many people didn’t know that the enslaved did ordinary things like writing letters”. She was an academic FWIW.

What’s the deal?

What some liberals or politically correct folks fail to understand is that when you water down terminology like “slaves”, you also water down the injustice done to them.
It’s like saying, “Let’s not say 6 million Jews were ***exterminated *in the Holocaust; let’s say they were euthanized, or their lives brought to a close instead.”

Enslaved does direct the focus more to the perpetrators instead of just the victims. I hope the word slave doesn’t become a PC focus though. I guess for a one line statement using enslaved clarifies that you understand the issue in it’s moral context, and sadly in these days that can still be uncertain for some people.

Previous thread (with poll): Is there any point to referring to slaves as “enslaved persons”?

Since that thread is almost 2 years old, I’m going to express my opinion here.

“Enslaved person” has two advantages over “slave” - 1) It emphasizes the personhood of the enslaved person; and 2) as TriPolar said, it emphasizes the evil act of enslavement, over the condition of being a slave.

Also, “slave” is often used only as a metaphor (“I slaved over a hot stove to make you this dinner, you’d better eat it!” or “Love me, and I’ll be your slave forever!”), which weakens its impact. Slavery is a horrible practice, and I’m generally in favor of anything that reminds us of that, and generally opposed to anything that disguises it.

Having said that, I think that anyone who corrects someone against using the word “slave” in favor of “enslaved person”, at least outside of a setting where strictest accuracy is important, is being a dick.

Velocity, a better analogy would be that instead of saying “6 million Jews were exterminated” we should say “6 million innocent people of Jewish heritage were exterminated”. Both are correct, the second is marginally more accurate.

Say “murdered”. The Nazis consider it extermination of Judenrats.

No, bad analogy. The nuance is more subtle than that. If I said “6 million Jews were exteminated” that resonates differently than “6 million Jewish people were exteminated”.

“Slave” is to “Jew” as “enslaved person” is to “Jewish people”. There is nothing wrong with “Jews” per se, but when it has an objectifying effect when its the default way of referring to victims of the Holocaust. So too does “slave”.

Somehow I see both of these distinctions regarding slavery and the holocaust as nits, and really distracting to each of the issues true substance.

Interestingly enough, both times this topic has been broached on this board, it’s been by people reacting to the use of “enslaved person” in lieu of “slave”. I predict that in 5 years it’ll replace “African American” as this board’s favorite term to complain about.

The whole thing just seems… silly. Like one of those issues that’s hotly debated, precisely because there’s nothing riding on it. I suppose it’s more precise to say enslaved persons, than the term “slave”, but it’s not even on the same planet as saying “Black” instead of “Colored” or “Negro”.

I agree with** Omar Little**- nit-picking these two terms distracts from the substance of the issue.

I remember when the computer industry used the terms master and slave but at some point in recent memory, people started to change the language.

Also, I worked at a software company in which, when you shut down our software, the system would say “killing actors” as the various processes were ending. I think they were thinking of changing that terminology as well.

I was not aware of that. What is the terminology now?

Earlier, leader/follower and later primary/replica.

“Enslaved person” seems overly specific to me. Who are you going to enslave except people?

Hard drives, apparently. :rolleyes:

There used to be Master LORAN stations and Slave LORAN stations. Sometimes in the 1960s there was concern that black people would be upset about “Slave” stations, so the Coast Guard redesignated them as “Secondary” stations. Now, I guess some folks might have been offended by slave stations. I can’t feel where the shoe pinches someone else’s foot, you know? But for crying out loud, Master and Secondary stations just don’t go together. If you’re gonna change “Slave” to “Secondary”, why the hell not go all the way and change “Master” to “Primary”??

As restatements for the sake of polcorr the one in the OP is small potatoes, after all in “enslaved person” there is still the explicit reference to slavery.

As to technical reference susing the master/slave figure, there’s hydraulic brake and clutch cylinders, too. The Car Talk brothers some years back commented about getting e-mails about references to master and slave in that context.

(I propose in inanimate systems the terms be redesignated Boss and Mook. Or perhaps you may consider the terms Dom and Sub :wink: )