Something occurred to me while watching an episode of House M.D. I think that the reason that this show is so popular is because deep down, everybody longs to be able to do what House does: we all would love to be able to speak our minds without thought as to what the reaction would be. Or perhaps with that in mind and yet not caring.

This isn’t much of a stretch to figure out, really. It’s quite obvious that this is why the character of House is so appealing. It’s not his looks or his limp that does it (well, maybe, for a select few), and it’s not his caustic personality. It’s simply that he knows he doesn’t have to worry about whether people are going to be offended by what he says, and while I personally think that the character acts the way he does to intentionally get those reactions out of people, the end result is the same: always to the point and intensely direct.

Part of me thinks that the world would be better off if we were all a little more like House. We would always speak our minds and be direct, and nobody would have to read into subtext anymore. But the other part of me knows that this is Real Life and that people in Real Life are wimps and have skins that are far too thin. I think that the funny thing about it is the fact that even if people were being truly direct, other people would still try to read between the lines to see what they really meant.

But is diplomacy really any better? What benefit is there in delicately tailoring every word so as to remain PC at all times? I’m reminded of George Carlin’s bit called “Euphemisms,” in which he makes a comment about how the direct and up-front title “shell shock” turned into the pansy-ass PC illness called “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” All of the emotion gets taken out of it:

There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to it’s absolute peak and maximum. Can’t take anymore input. The nervous system has either *click* snapped or is about to snap. In the first world war, that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables, shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago.

Then a whole generation went by and the second world war came along and very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock! Battle fatigue.

Then we had the war in Korea, 1950. Madison avenue was riding high by that time, and the very same combat condition was called operational exhaustion. Hey, were up to eight syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase. It’s totally sterile now. Operational exhaustion. Sounds like something that might happen to your car.

Then of course, came the war in Vietnam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it’s no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

I’ll bet you if we’d have still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time.

Probably not a huge surprise here, but I think he’s right. At what point do we stop being direct in order to sound, well, nicer? And isn’t it not okay that we do this?

Maybe we don’t all need to be like House, but maybe a step or two in that direction wouldn’t be so bad, either.