The Toronto District School Board is replacing the word chief with manager because they believe they are being politically correct in doing so. Here’s the kicker: No indigenous person or group asked the Toronto District School Board to make these changes. That’s all on the Toronto District School Board.
SIDE NOTE: The term ‘chief’ as it pertains to Indigenous peoples in North America is a colonial construct. You can read more about that HERE.
But let’s take a look at how things are devolving these days. If the word chief is thought of by some to be politically incorrect in a school setting, what’s going to happen elsewhere in society?
How will this impact on businesses? Are the terms CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and CFO (Chief Financial Officer) doomed to be phased out? Someone who is a CEO or a CFO is more than just a manager (to go with the replacement the Toronto District School Board has settled on using).
According to the dictionary, a chief is a leader or ruler of a people or a clan or an organized body of people. The chief is the highest in authority.
It doesn’t sound right to have a Lead Executive Officer or Lead Financial Officer as it diminishes the responsibilities such positions carry. It doesn’t sound right to have an Executive Ruler or a Financial Ruler as it bring too much power to these positions.
Chief also means most important and highest in power or position, but you certainly can’t call someone Most Important Executive Officer or Most Important Financial Officer. What about all the others at countless businesses and organizations around the globe? Who determines which is most important?
And Highest Executive Officer or Highest Financial Officer just leads so many to think inappropriate thoughts about what these officers do while at work as well as in their off time. After all, would you want to deal with the Highest Executive Officer or Highest Financial Officer, and if you did, wouldn’t some small part of you wonder if you should prepare for an unexpected police raid?
I’m loathe to considering celebrity to replace chief even though some are celebrities (or act like they are). And I’m loathe to consider superstar even though it’s a fact there are some serious superstars in those business roles.
I’m not crazy with using daredevil, demigod, or diva for obvious reasons. Replacing chief with ace just sounds silly, don’t you agree?
I don’t believe executive would work well as in Executive Executive Director. And we can probably strike big cheese, big gun, big wheel, big enchilada, head honcho, top dog, and great kahuna from the list as well.
Somehow taskmaster and task mistress leave the wrong impression (one best left in the hands of authors of erotica stories and the likes) as does dominator or dominatrix.
Once we start down this slippery slope, things can only get worse. Imagine having to find another way of describing an economy’s chief exports. You can’t just substitute a synonym for chief and run with it without sounding pretentious.
And that’s the chief — er, main — problem with being overly politically correct these days. Perfectly good terms are being replaced because one word, taken out of context, might offend or possibly offend or allegedly offend (because sometimes those who claim to be offended are just looking to stir the pot) someone somewhere.
I don’t know where the Toronto District School Board got the idea it had to replace the word chief with the word manager but it did, and now this has opened up a can of worms the likes of which haven’t been seen since the news last Spring reporting on culinary historian Michael W. Twitty’s allegation that barbeque was an appropriation of African-American and Native culture. Michael, the first time a caveman or cavewoman decided to cook food over an open flame is the first instance of barbeque existing, so pretty much anyone who figured out how to do that back then can lay claim to that discovery without tagging any culture in particular as being the originator of this style of cuisine.
SIDE NOTE: Mr. Twitty also claimed that there’s such a thing as cultural culinary injustice, and that has to do with someone building a successful business on what they cook. I don’t see that as cultural culinary injustice. I see that as the entrepreneurial spirit rising to the occasion, and paying off for the hardworking entrepreneur. But I digress.
Back in 1886, Rudyard Kipling wrote and published his poem “The Betrothed.” One line among the many stands out for its aptness to this situation: A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.
Sometimes a word is just a word, no more and no less. And sometimes people see more in a word than what was there in the first place. I guess you could say that’s the chief point of this essay.