[This is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 28 September 2016.]
‘The blue of the grass’ is the color green in an African language. That’s a lot of letters compared to the five letters in the word ‘green’ to get across the same message. But it’s also getting harder to communicate in English. In the last several decades English has lost much of its ability for clear, concise, and complete delivery. Techies call this ‘information carrying capacity’, and the capacity of everyday English has been going down. We are paying a price for this loss in our public dialogue.
Disabled or handicapped people aren’t disabled or handicapped. They are ‘challenged’. And if a person has a problem with math, they’re math challenged. Hell, I’ve spent my life being math challenged. But if I said that to someone, they would never know that math has always been my strong suit, and the basis of a rewarding career. Nevertheless, I and others like me have been stumped by math problems many a time. Today ‘challenged’ has so many meanings that we have to tell a story instead of simply using the proper word.
Speaking of problems - people and organizations no longer have them. They’ve traded them in for ‘issues’. So if a meeting agenda has on it the discussion of certain issues, you have no idea whether it calls for a group problem solving session or simply a boring report. Again, more explanation is necessary to avoid confusion.
The same disease has struck a passel of other words like ‘discriminate’, ‘racist’, ‘right’, ‘prejudge’, and ‘immigrant’. The name of the disease is political correctness. People afflicted with this malady seek to convey a flattened world that has no distinct edges or shapes that efficiently define the specifics of a linguistic landscape. Doing that would expose them to being ‘judgmental’ – and heaven forbid, no PC person would want that tag hung around their neck. Nice people are non-judgmental, they never decide that this is not that. Or do they?
Today we are told that immigration reform season is here again. But our handicapped language no longer supports a clear discussion of the illegal alien problem. We have decisions to make about 11 million of them here in a country that has thrived from liberal immigration policies.
For the record, immigration is a two party process. An immigrant is a foreigner who receives permission from the welcoming country to enter, work, and make it their new home. He becomes an illegal immigrant when he violates the conditions of his lawful entry while remaining in-country. Our laws say that such individuals are not in the same category as those who enter our country illegally. But for us to talk about the latter requires that they have a unique label. Historically that has been ‘illegal alien’. Today the PC disease has banished the label and its clear meaning.
For political purposes illegal aliens have been softened to ‘undocumented immigrants’. Everyone knows immigration is as American as apple pie, and these so-called immigrants are merely challenged by the lack of a few pieces of paper with some words on them. Why should we discriminate against their ability to work or receive government benefits because of this bureaucratic inconvenience? And so we continue talking past each other, because we have purged the correct words from a once-rich language.
My name is Rebane, reprising an edited commentary first aired in April 2010. In this season of ideologically charged debates it’s time once more to reflect on how tongue-tied we have become since then. The addended transcript on Rebane’s Ruminations expands on this and other views not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
[Addendum] The types of wound that English has suffered during the last half century are many. Academic papers could be written on the topic were our academe still capable or in the mood to expose what it has been a prime agent in promoting. Today’s list of semantically castrated words is almost endless.
Take another egregious practice that has become endemic. It is the gathering of multiple words under one semantical umbrella claiming that the different labels which formerly communicated exquisite nuances no longer do so because they are ‘synonymous’. For example, consider ‘reject’, ‘decline’, ‘refuse’ as versions of denying something. Some deem these words synonymous because they all have the same ‘ring of finality’, which, of course, they don’t – an invitation ‘rejected’ conveys a stronger sense than one ‘refused’ which is still stronger than an invitation ‘declined’. Any competent wordsmith will not confuse these forms of denial, and will use them appropriately to convey the desired shade of meaning.
In the workaday mind ‘invest’ is no longer understood to mean the risky transfer of time, talent, or (mostly) treasure by an investor for some uncertain downstream gain. Since progressive politicians started camouflaging tax increases and spending policies under the rubric of ‘investments’, the average Joe easily confuses that with astute expenditures by knowledgeable and experienced investors who have demonstrated a successful history of making profits. The fact that the investors in the case of government ‘investments’ are politicians who take no risk in buying votes with other people’s money never penetrates their distracted and unprepared minds.
Another successful progressive ploy is the use of ‘hate’ and ‘hatred’ to brownwash anyone who disagrees with any tenet from their revealed scripture. If you oppose federal funding of abortions, then you hate women with the double whammy of opposing their ‘right to choose’. If you criticize our mulatto president or the culture of crime in black inner city neighborhoods, then you harbor ‘race hatred and are easily designated a white supremacist. And being called a ‘racist’ is a genre all of its own previously covered here.
Finally, we have more than a touch of lexicographic insanity leaking from the halls of ivy. Vanderbilt has introduced a new modus lingua in its ‘What should I call you?’ campaign. This is so bizarre that I encourage readers to just go to the links listed to find out what their academic senate is now promoting to augment and assure civil discourse. (more here and here)
We of the politically benighted must always remember that whatever we may say or whichever words we may use, our betters on the Left always know what we really mean and what we really meant to say (here). When the lamestream is yours and you own the words (more here), newspeak is easy.