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Dear Mr Mandela, or should that be ‘Persondela’?

Dear Mr Mandela

While everyone is mesmerised, shocked or thoroughly disgusted by the preliminary rounds of the Thabo vs Jacob punch-up in Polokwane, I know that you are probably deeply disturbed by the unseemly and puerile nature of this egoistic contretemps.

I feel it my duty at this painful time for you to try to take your mind off this unfortunate rumble in the jungle by asking you to apply your mind to a question that has been vexing me for many years now.

You would know, I’m sure. Is political correctness mandatory — I beg your pardon, I mean persondatory — in this country?

I certainly don’t remember any such legislation being tabled, unless of course at some stage it was quietly manipulated through … oops, personipulated, through Parliament without us knowing about it.

No, for heaven’s sake, what am I thinking? A man … um … person of your integrity would never stoop to such devious and underhand political manoeuvring … er … personoeuvring.

In which case, I implore you to use your considerable influence to bring this blind, stampeding rush to be politically correct to a halt before it spreads like the most virulent of cancers throughout our language and society, reducing both man … um … person and beast to quivering wrecks through fear of inadvertently saying “Ag, man, sis” in public.

I can hardly manage … personage … to control my temper when I watch television or listen to the radio as presenters and journalists get away with saying “centred around” and other such illogical misuses of the English language but stick with manic … personic … religious fervour to words such as “chairperson” and the latest manifestation … personifestation … of muddled thinking, “waitron” — the new gender-neutral way, let me tell you in all honesty, of describing those people who serve in restaurants. I am told that the word “waitron” is in itself highly derogatory, being a combination of “waiter” and “moron”. How insulting to those persons who bring us our soup with their thumbs in the bowl and always look the other way when we raise our hands and say, “Could we have some more butter please …?”

All this suggests to me is that some misguided bunch of gender-sensitive busybodies has assumed that women are ashamed of being called waitresses and, indeed, of being identified as women. Frankly, at the risk of being called a sexist pig-dog, I much prefer waitresses to waiters. Apart from anything else, they’re prettier and usually much more efficient.

I have, incidentally, also forcibly restrained myself from asking why school pupils have become “learners” because I am sure the rationale will be such it will prompt me to rush outside and hurl myself under a bus.

You will, Mr Man … er … Persondela, be rendering an enormous service to mankind … personkind … if you would use your many … persony … negotiating talents to stop the rot.

I live in fear, now, that if I start hearing words such as “personhole cover” and New York’s “Personhattan” or read about the “Persango Growers’ Association” in Mpumalanga; “persongrove” forests or ordinary people being “personhandled” by policepersons; the number of “personhours” being lost through strikes; cargo “personifests” and “personequin” parades, I shall become decidedly homicidal and will probably end up being jailed for personslaughter.

Having a person of honour such as you beside me, manning … personning … the barricades against this evil encroachment upon our sensitivities will make all the difference in the world.

I would readily admit, of course, that it is a manysided … personysided … problem and would hasten to assure you that my current obsession with all this is not just born out of frivolous sensitivity.

Political correctness is, I believe, the very foundation of a scourge that is tearing this country apart. Not that those who promote political correctness have hidden and devious agendas. Indeed they are simply innocent pawns.

But, I’m sure that when you think about it, Mr Persondela, you will, like me, come to realise that political correctness is a particularly cosy bedfellow of intolerance.

And that is why I have written to you: because, for many a decade now, you have tried to create a climate of tolerance in this intolerant country.

You have led by example and quite clearly placed the “T-word” at the top of your wish list for this new South Africa.

So please, talk to your nation. Persuade them that waitresses can be proud to be identified as women. That “chairman” has become sexless and that being addressed as such does not mean you are necessarily flat-chested and shave your face every day.

It just worries me, Mr Persondela, that perhaps justifiable political correctness will grow into petty correctness without anyone really noticing. And it will be this pettiness that will further fan the flames of intolerance and prevent us from ever becoming a united, happy nation.

Oh, I know many people will think I’m talking a lot of horsepersonure, but you, I know, will listen.

Personfully yours