Here Come the 'Brights'

April 2004

You should know that atheists just aren't going to take it any longer. They're sick and tired of being referred to in pejorative terms (skeptic, infidel, doubter, heathen) or negative terms (godless, unbeliever, nonreligious, atheist). Their replacement term of choice is "bright" (according to an article in the Nov. 2003 Atlantic by Cullen Murphy cutely titled "The Path of Brighteousness").

Yes, we imagine you're thinking this is just too self-congratulatory to catch on. But think again. The term "gay" is also very self-congratulatory, and it has nonetheless largely replaced homosexual. Is the "gay lifestyle" really gay? Only in the most superficial sense, for most "gays" live lives of quiet desperation (though it's impolite to point that out). If "gays" aren't really gay, are atheists actually bright? Yes, they do tend to be, if you measure that by academic achievement.

Since homosexuals and heterosexuals are opposites, and if homosexuals are "gay," then what are heterosexuals? We checked some of the antonyms of gay, and found joyless, unhappy, grim, sad, colorless, drab. Are heterosexuals joyless, etc.? That would seem to be the implication. If atheists are "brights," then by implication theists are dumbbells. Will this be a problem? If homosexuals can get away with "gay," it shouldn't be.

For euphemisms and "inclusive" language terms to catch on, it is most helpful if they have fewer syllables than the standard term. One of the problems with replacing chairman with chairperson was that it added a syllable. So now the p.c. term of choice is simply chair. (Don't ask how chairman gets morphed into a chair.) Replacing craftsmanship with craftspersonship has not caught on -- too many syllables -- and crafts/craft would just be too baffling. But the homosexuals got it right: "Gay" is only one syllable whereas homosexual is five syllables. "Bright" is also one syllable whereas atheist is three syllables. So there should be no problem on this front.

There is only one remaining problem. The atheists must unite around a single term. Here is where the blacks fouled it up. First it was blacks, then colored people, then Negroes, then Afro-Americans, then blacks again, and then people of color and African Americans. However, the supposedly obsolete terms never really became obsolete. For example, it's still the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. So, what should "they" be called? We've seen articles where several designations are used -- just to play it safe. But most people just got tired of all the confusing changes. Even though most blacks are not literally black, we at the NOR also got tired of all the changes, and so we've stuck with black. (Most white people are not literally white either. In fact, we've never seen anyone who was literally white. The whitest of the white are actually pink.)


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New Oxford Notes: April 2004

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