One of my favorite quotes from the entertaining movie, “Princess Bride” is Inigo Montoya’s reply to Vizzini who can’t conceive of any facet of his plan going awry. (Spoilers: several facets don’t pan out.)
A humorous introduction to a decidedly un-humorous subject: definitions.
I’m old enough to remember when words, many if not most of them, had agreed-upon meanings. (Don’t start with me about frappe versus milkshake.) We had a kind of book called a dictionary. It contained many words, their definition(s) and some dictionaries had their origins as well. It actually was the job of employed editors to decide whether or not new words could be added, older words deleted, and meanings added, deleted, or changed.
Now, most people use websites where apparently anyone can change a definition on a whim. Or for political gain.
Here’s a series of changes that have occurred recently.
- Violence is violence.
- Speech is violence.
- Silence is violence.
- Violence is protest
- Violence isn’t violence.
Did I miss a memo? I know that language isn’t mathematics, but c’mon, man!
Capital Hill Occupied Protest isn’t violent. “ It’s peaceful. It’s a street festival-like atmosphere.” (MSNBC)
Here’s another: Racism (noun) – prejudice or discrimination based on race. (Webster’s).
- Racism – separating people by skin color.
- Racism – people of different races having separate but equal facilities.
- Not racism – have preferences or quotas for college admissions or job hires.
- Not racism – putting people in groups by skin color or national origin.
- Not racism – having separate college dorm and commencement programs.
- Racism – not judging people by their skin color / being color-blind
- Racist – being white.
- Not racist – being non-white.
It seems like some words are coming out of the German Enigma code machine, which changed the code sequence every time the machine was used.
I recall some guy that dreamed that his children would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. We’re not allowed to mention his name these days. He didn’t “get it”. He also suggested that those who protested for civil rights for all should not initiate violence. By allowing their opponents (e.g., racists) to start it up, people-watching in person or on TV would see the righteousness of the protesters.
Where is that concept these days?
Who doesn’t see a bunch of mostly white kids smashing and burning stores, looting, attacking police with various weapons, including fireworks, and think, “Ya know? I really want to support these folks. How can I do that?” Me, neither.
And while we’re here:
- Kung Flu spread risk in large gatherings to protest shut-downs or worship services is high.
- Kung Flu spread risk in anti-police protests, riots, or indoor funerals for approved people is low.
I believe that it was Orwell who noted that changing the words and language used would change the debate.
Let’s remember that “1984” was a warning, not an instruction manual.