By ByronNevins on Feb 26, 2011
Okay FOLKS, we are developing a new product and we need our RESOURCES to start work on it right away. Naturally INDIVIDUALS can get involved. But no PEOPLE are allowed!!
Why in modern-day English do we bend over backwards to avoid using the words "person" and "people". They seem to fit the bill just fine to me. At meetings at work I hear things like: "We don't have enough RESOURCES to get that done!" Water? Oil? Mining rights? Computers? Robots? No! He meant "We don't have enough PEOPLE to get that done!".
Folks is interesting because it is a German word (Volk und Volken). I guess that it's OK to disguise that you're really saying person or people by using a foreign word that means people.
Police/Government speak loves to use the term "Individual". "Some INDIVIDUALS were noticed hanging around the area". Hmm -- Individual \*\*what\*\*? Individual lions? rocks? resources? Isn't INDIVIDUAL meant to differentiate from GROUP. Now we have a group of INDIVIDUALS. Aiiieeee!
I guess the answer to the question is that we like to dehumanize our speech. Seems sad and imprecise to me.