Putting aside for a moment the controversy over “person-first” language, I wonder if we can at all agree that the following expressions should be banished:
- “The disabled”
- “The mentally ill”
- “The homeless”
- “The poor”
- All other uses of mass nouns to describe minority demographics that are seen as the object of care and concern.
Even worse is the use of such mass nouns with possessives, like “the nation’s mentally ill.”
To me, these phrases turn groups of individuals into an undifferentiated blob that is to be somehow “dealt with” or otherwise cared for by the rest of the population (“population” is also a mass noun, but since “population” includes everyone in a particular place, it doesn’t come across as demeaning to me).
I can imagine cases in which that connotation wouldn’t be there. For example, people tend to view certain kinds of social movements as masses (“the Army,” “Anonymous,”…
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