Thursday, February 16, 2023

What to do with all those young people

 Recently the Associated Press Stylebook issued guidance to avoid using the with nouns referring to groups of people, such as "the mentally ill" or "the disabled," as potentially dehumanizing. (The initial tweet included "the French," for which they were thoroughly razzed.) 

People in social service agencies and organizations have grown terribly fond of using youth to refer to young people,"young people" or "adolescents" or "teens" being apparently insufficiently officious. I'd like to suggest that that, too, is potentially dehumanizing language. And if not dehumanizing, at least awkward outside government reports and other repositories of too-starchy English.

Oh, I don't mind all that much as a collective noun for the overall population in that age range--"services for youth," "youth employment," "children and youth involved with law enforcement," that sort of language. 

But I also see it used indiscriminately, and echoed by journalists, for discrete groups, for individuals: "group of 15 youth, 2 adults," for example. This is just irritating and unnecessary. 

If we need an overall term for the collective group and individuals, perhaps we should emulate the example of Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny and call them yutes.