Sunday, January 6, 2008


I've started posting on a messageboard again: this one. A bit of a change. It's been a while, and when I have been active before on a board it has usually been one about computing or comics But the theme of this one is not really relevant to this blog entry. One more chatty thread is about pet peeves. I have my share.

Oh boy do I have my share.

I try not to go off about them, though. Best not to pour gasoline on a fire, ya know. It's not that I can't do heated discussions. I handle myself well enough but tend to "go for blood". NOT a good way to win hearts and minds. And who needs the aggravation?

The question plays into something I've been thinking about recently. One little phrase. I'm not sure if the nature of the phrase or the fact that it is apparently accepted usage annoys me more. Whatever "zone" I'm in the phrase stops me short and gets me worked up.

That phrase is "confined to a wheelchair".

It would be extraordinarily simple not to use this. I'm not talking some convoluted new terminology. How about "uses"? Instead of "Bob is confined to a wheelchair", "Bob uses a wheelchair"? Did anyone fail to understand that second sentence?

So, simple to make a diffferent usage choice. The natural question is "why bother?". I'm not asking for anyones self esteem to be artificially propped up. This isn't like "differently abled" (which is an abomination in its own right). I have two problems with "confined to a wheelchair".

The first is that it doesn't make a lick of sense. Let's look at our hypothetical Bob again. Bob cannot get from A to B under his own legpower. So he uses a wheelchair to accomplish that. How is this confinement? Seems to me he has more mobility with than without. Most of us cannot get from one town to another 30 miles away without some kind of transport. Are we therefore "confined"? In a way yes, but "confined to a bus" is hardly common, let alone accepted, usage.

As an aside, these are good questions to ask those who rail against "political correctness". If anyone hasn't caught on that PC is a straw man created by the political right (and yes, there are examples of people taking the idea of speaking about/treating each other decently to extremes, but what falsehood is not at least a little grounded in truth?), the ear-deafening silence surrounding this phrase might be instructive.

The second aspect is the one that really gets at why "confined" is problematical. Back to Bob. I tell you that Bob uses a wheelchair. Why is it accepted usage to do so entirely from the standpoint of someone who does not? Again, lets look at travel. Except this time we're going to the UK. Maybe to catch some Premiership matches or something. If we're starting where I am now (north central US), chances are we will be taking an airplane. Could it be said we are confined to an airplane? It could, but should it? Maybe that is true from the point of view of a gull or something, but I don't see why that gull's point of reference should be more important than ours when WE ARE THE ONES BEING TALKED ABOUT. Perhaps the gull thinks requiring a mobility aid for transAtlantic travel is terribly confining. But should that gull's perspective trump the travellers?

I answer no ... but this blog entry is questions. Not answers.

Because the more questions you ask, the more you know. Eventually.

And knowing is half the battle.

Totally gratuitous 80s cartoon reference there. I know.

And knowing ...

I already said that.

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