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January 25th, 2007

Before P.C.

Doing some genealogical research on my family lately, I came upon my great-grandfather's sisters, Mildred, Hazel, and Salonie. They were all alive when I was young and I remember each of them fairly well. Aunt Mill, Aunt Hazel, and Aunt Fatty were what we called them. It was a few minutes before it struck me as odd because it was so ingrained, but, yes, we called her Aunt Fatty; everyone did.

Yes, Aunt Fatty was rather large, but the name was never meant - and I don't believe was ever taken - as an insult. We Cajuns, especially, are notorious for tagging loved ones with nicknames and, more often than not, these names come to be used, by family and friends alike, more than given names.

Everyone called her Aunt Fatty, and as a child I never thought a thing about it. It never even occurred to me that it was an insult or in any way derogatory; she called herself "Aunt Fatty" to us as well. It wasn't until I was older, and living in this overly politically correct world that it struck me as irregular.

Then there were The Dummies. They were neighbors who had been around forever, and in our small town, were almost like family. The wife and husband were both deaf and dumb, though they communicated well enough with everyone in their way; people were used to them and their garbled words and hand gestures, so it wasn't impossible to communicate with them for the local folks. However, I never did, and still don't, know their true names - first or last. They were Mr. and Mrs. Dummy. It sounds cruel; it wasn't. They knew they were Mr. and Mrs. Dummy, and they accepted it as unblinkingly as my Aunt Salome accepted being Aunt Fatty.

There were no lawsuits, no angry retorts, no bruised egos. All three were good people whom everyone knew and loved. The names were simply monikers that were placed on them; yes, they happened to hold nuggets of truth, but it wasn't an insult...it simply was. And no one thought any more about it.

It's hard to imagine something like that in today's absurdly p.c. world. People's acutely sensitive egos bruise at the very slightest imagined insult to their race, person, or creed. It seems back in the day, people actually had better things to be worried about.

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