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Home-->Op-Ed-->What's in a word?
What's in a word? ewoolsey
Updated: 2014-02-17 13:35:56
Once, there was a familiar expression, “What’s in a word?” Although very little consideration is given to this simple question, yet our speech carries a profound significance in mirroring societal trends.

Here are just a few examples: "foreign food" becomes “ethnic cuisine,” "garbage man" becomes “sanitation engineer,” "housewife" becomes “domestic engineer,” "janitor" becomes “custodial artist,” "midget" becomes “vertically challenged,” "ugly" becomes “visually challenged,” "trailer park" becomes “mobile home community,” "secretary" becomes “administrative assistant,” "natural disaster" becomes “unnatural event caused by man's destruction of the environment,” and last but not least… "FAT" becomes “enlarged physical condition caused by a completely natural genetically-induced hormone imbalance.” Yeah, we could play this game all day!

In the last 15 years, our country has been noticeably changing at an alarming rate. Not only has our national economy been shaken to its foundation, but our moral values have also been drastically impacted. It must be noted that we, as a people, have entered a dangerous era of social engineering, as indicated by our replacement terminology.

One of the first signals for this subtle cultural transition is the retooling of our vernacular. Before revamping traditional values, the common vocabulary must be modified to remove any established bias.

Although many of the previous examples of verbal revision were laughable, yet some are more indicative of the moral creep our society is experiencing. For example, "unborn baby" becomes “mass of fetal tissue,” "unnatural affection" becomes “alternative lifestyle,” "sex change" become “gender re-assignment,” "illegal alien" becomes “undocumented immigrant,” "broken home" becomes “dysfunctional family,” "bum" becomes “homeless person,” "criminal" becomes “behaviorally challenged,” "failure" becomes “deferred success,” and "belligerent disrespect" becomes “oppositional defiance.”

This linguistic shell game is an elusive ploy used to repackage a familiar truth as a convenient lie for the sake of confusing the real issue. Currently, personal shortcomings are often rewarded through government assistance, simply by renaming a moral flaw as a handicap. Akin to the old Mary Poppins’ song, “A Spoonful Of Sugar Makes The Medicine Go Down,” our new politically-correct jargon helps us swallow what was previously revolting. However, unlike the movie about our favorite Disney nanny, we’re instead talking political poison rather than moral medicine.

I am reminded of an old proverb, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Truly, if there is “anything to a word,” then trends in modern speech betray the fact that our national morals are being subverted. Unable to exclusively blame government, the primary fault lies with us simply for buying into this linguistic lie. Put more succinctly, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a DUCK.”

Commentary by Edwin Woolsey, Willow Springs, Missouri

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