Finding The Correct Word

The morning in the office started with a discussion about whether “Dutch treat” or “Chinese auction” were politically correct terms and progressed into a polite war of words, I mean, discussion.

For most of us in the news business, there are guides we use to produce readable, cohesive stories. In the newspaper office we have numerous copies of the Associated Press stylebook.

This is our go-to book that decides whether “teenager” is one word or hyphenated. Just so you know, for years AP hyphenated the word and only recently decided to drop the hyphen.

It’s kind of like a game of “who’s on first” trying to keep up with what’s proper.

As we progressed into a technological world in which typewriters became obsolete, we have learned that cellphone is one word and that Twitter is uppercase but a tweet is not.

For those covering the police beat, the stylebook lets you know the difference between bail and bond although most of us interchange the words in hopes we never have to personally know what it means.

When we have to quote someone and they use the words “towards” or “forwards” we struggle with typing that up since the correct form is “toward” and “forward.”

We also have to be accurate in our weather reporting and know the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning. It could mean the difference between a chance of flooding or actual water in the basement.

While each day we struggle with political correctness or politeness, we find ourselves embroiled in discussions. This week, the maker of Hallmark greeting cards made the news when it replaced the word “gay” with “fun” in the very old and popular holiday song, “Deck the Halls.” Really? We’ve come to that?

Political correctness has taken a turn for the worse. When we have to change a treasured song or holiday greeting because of trends, there’s something wrong. Should we ban the “Gay ’90s” from the history books or change the official Christmas holiday to an unspecified non-religious day off work?

Give me a break. We are continually trying to change our heritage, our history and our thinking because something offends someone. The United States was built on the quest for religious freedom. People of the Christian faith were followed by the Jewish faith, followed by the Muslim faith, and so on.

In the AP stylebook, Christmas is defined as the “federal legal holiday observed on Friday if Dec. 25 falls on a Saturday, on Monday it it falls on Sunday.” The definition never mentions that Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

While we embrace all faiths and freedoms in this country, we must not rewrite the history books that remind us how we got here.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at