Or at least it was new when I first ran an ancestorof this post on the old blog back in 2008 (26 July).
No doubt you have heard of 'people of color' not to be confused with 'colored people.' (But what exactly is the difference in reality?) Just this morning I discovered that some airlines are now referring to fat passengers as 'customers of size.' I am not making this up.
A 'customer of size' is defined by Southwest Airlines as one who is "unable to lower the armrests (the definitive boundary between seats) and/or who compromise[s] any portion of adjacent seating . . . ."
As one who has been 'compromised' by obese flyers on more than one occasion, I can only applaud the policy if not the PC expression.
The tort against the English language is similar to that of dropping qualifiers. Thus a high quality journal is referred to as a 'quality' journal. But since every journal has some quality, high, low, or middling, why should 'quality' get to stand in for 'high quality'? Why should 'intercourse' get to go proxy for 'sexual intercourse'? Similarly for 'chauvinism' and 'male chauvinism.' Since we all have some color or other, why are only some of us 'people of color'? And since all of us have some size or other, why do some bear the distinction of being 'customers of size'? Just because I'm not fat, I don't have a size?
Just because my body is not misshapen, I don't have a shape?
'Fat' is perhaps rude. But what is wrong with 'obese'?
It is interesting to note the difference between 'sexual intercourse' and 'male chauvinism.' 'Male' here functions as an alienans adjective: it shifts or 'alienates' the sense of the term it qualifies: a male chauvinist is not a chauvinist. 'Sexual,' by contrast, in this context is a specifying adjective: sexual intercourse is a species of intercourse in the way that male chauvinism is not a species of chauvinism.
Recent talk of dummy sortals occasions the observation that 'dummy' here is an alienans adjective. It is not as if sortals come in two kinds, dummy and non-dummy.
If I were to write a book, Sortals for Dummies, that would be a point I'd make early on.
For more fun with alienans adjectives see my Adjectives category.