PC problems

I need some help. In the paragraph below I refer to “Muslim prayer pajamas”. This is the best description I can think of for the outfits the individuals were wearing. But is it PC? Or is it offensive? I had changed it to “Muslim prayer outfits” but it just doesn’t have the same ring or descriptive aspects of the phrase in question.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

A crowd gathered. Men in full-length Muslim prayer pajamas wearing flat-topped Muslim caps stopped. Businessmen who look like businessmen everywhere except sweatier and dustier stopped. The traffic cop came over from his station in the middle of the intersection.

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Sarah says:

I think the best general term for “Muslim prayer pajamas” would probably be “tunic.” However, the name for this outfit has different regional/country names. In any case, I would definitely suggest trying to use something other than pajamas. Also, the brimless cap is generally called a fez hat, but for the western reader your description is probably more helpful.

Anyway, your piece looks very interesting!

Kelsey says:

But they are so pajama like!

I thought about using the regional name for the outfit, but, to the average reader that means nothing.

I really don’t want to be offensive so I’ll probably steer clear of “prayer pajamas”, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. I’m a sucker for alliterative descriptions.

If someone has a better description, please let me know.

Rachael says:

prayer pants? at least you get your alliteration

prayer apparel? almost alliteration

Classic Muslim Mufti Costume

“Sunday Best” probably wouldn’t work;-)

Or you could be really un-PC and use “panoply” which has the double-edged meaning of “weaponry” as well as “clothing”

Maybe pajamas ain’t half so bad after all!

Kelsey says:


Ooh, “prayer apparel” is appealing in its appropriateness. I might use that one.

I had no idea what a panoply was, thanks for the lesson. If I was president, I would appoint you An American Ambassador of All Alliteration Activities.

Joel says:

I think you should keep pajamas. You ‘have a right’ to convey your honest first impressions, and if you need to get around the PC-Mafia, then just couch those impressions a certain way. Just qualify it somehow so it’s softer, like:

“Men wearing flat-topped Muslim caps [called _____] and full-length Muslim prayer [whatever they’re really called – transliterate Arabic term maybe], which immediately brought the phrase “prayer pajamas” to my young American mind, stopped…”

You’ll want to uncomplicate the grammar a bit, and choose more powerful terms, but you can see what I’m getting at. Besides, it’s definitely better than “man-dress,” the term I heard a soldier stationed in Iraq use.

Also, I know a guy who could give you the real terms for that clothing: http://www.tieszen.bluepile.com/

Joel says:

I don’t like “prayer apparel.” It sounds like something you’d find in Joel Osteen’s mega-church’s bookstore.

Jessica says:

…prayer garments?

…pajama-like (insert Arabic term), worn during prayer…

Rachael says:

One little problem Kelsey, I’m a Kiwi! (hence the need to say your name for the kk alliteration)
Remember me when you run for presidency.

Charles says:

Since Joel mentioned me (comment #5), I’ll contribute my 2 cents. I would go with a combination of what was advised by Sarah and Joel. You should make an effort to learn the regional name and pass that on, but its important to convey initial impressions too.

BUT, why the connection between what Muslims were wearing and prayer? They do not wear specific clothing when praying or connected to praying as, say, Jews might (prayer shawl). So,

Charles says:

For some reason my comment above was cut-off. The last sentence should read: So, “prayer pajamas” is wrong on that level, but using the regional term combined with what your initial impressions of it was (pj’s) seems fine to me (i.e, if in Morocco you could combine “jellaba” with “what looked like pajamas to me”).

Kelsey says:

Great input.

Charles, my friends in Bangladesh would put on the outfits like the one in question when they went to Mosque. That’s why I associate the dress with prayer. The rest of the time they wore khakis or blue jeans.

Joel, good point. Initial reaction is worth something naivety or not.

Rachael, Schwarzenegger is the governor of California, I’m sure you could be Auckland’s Administrator to the American Ambassador of All Alliteration Activities.

To some extent I think the choice of how PC to be depends on the context with which it is written. I would hope by the time a reader, Muslim or not, got to this paragraph they would understand that this is a description and that it by no means is meant to degrade the people of Bangladesh or their religion.

Still, I’m considering a slight change in the description. I appreciate all the help.

Charles says:

That’s interesting Kelsey. Dressing up in this way simply to go to the mosque makes it a sort of “Sunday-best” then I suppose. I’m sure if what you’re writing is anything like your blog then your readers will probably have a sense of your genuineness and not anything politically incorrect and/or offensive.

Let your voice be heard!