It is amazing how words change things.
When I went to school, my teacher taught me the word “often” should be pronounced “off nn”, not “off ten”. She said that the latter pronunciation marked you as “uneducated.” Of course, most people pronounce it the wrong way, but for me to hear it that way is like hearing a fingernail on a blackboard.
In my early days, when you drove around the city, the fuel trucks had the word “inflammable” painted on their sides, which is the correct word. But presumably the uneducated thought that that word meant that the contents were not combustible. So the word inflammable has been replaced by “flammable.”
I hear people, mostly in the military, talking about where they store their goodies on maneuvers. They say that they “caa shaay” them. The proper word is cache (caa sssh). Caa shaay (cachet) is an entirely different word that has nothing to do with storing goodies. (Another fingernail on the blackboard)
How do you properly write “there are three (2’s, to’s, too’s) in the English language?”
Another word that I like to muse upon (like inflammable vs. flammable) is awe. Now awe is defined as a feeling of amazement and respect mixed with fear that is often coupled with a feeling of personal insignificance or powerlessness The word awful should mean something that fills us with awe. In modern usage, we use the word to mean just the opposite … something horrible. So if we want to give awe the correct connotation, we say “awesome.” Let me give you an example how the word and its cousins could be used:
A number of years ago a friend of mine was speeding down the local interstate when he happened upon a stunning, awesome scene. Just a few minutes before, the driver of the local animal waste truck, the “gut wagon,” had lost control of his large truck and had rolled it right straight down the highway, scattering several tons of guts and gore clear across the road for a considerable distance. The first car to happen on the scene was a Volkswagen Bug full of Nuns in their habits. The holy ladies must have been in a hurry to get somewhere, because they began easing their “Bug” through the sea of disgusting gore, to a tragic conclusion. When my friend came upon them with his 4 wheel drive pickup they were high centered, spun out, on a bug eyed, horned cow’s head … and nearly hysterical. He, being a gentleman, got out his tow chain and pulled them off the head. He showed where to go through the guck and followed them to the open road. Wasn’t that awful in all senses of the word?
He was awed when he came upon the awful sight of a truck load of offal strung down the road with a car load of over awed Nuns stuck on top of the awful specter of an awful piece of offal. I am awed by this story, but although that it is awful in the true sense of the word, I guess I will just have to settle by calling it awesome.
Then there are the prohibitions on our free speech. I have also mused upon the unarticulated prohibition of using some very common words. I have wondered how a person from a foreign country would handle understanding the “f” word. It is not in many dictionaries, yet it is heard everywhere. It is very flexible, it can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb and expletive, even commonly, incestuously … basically, a totally versatile word. My research shows that it can be used in a least 63 different ways. I have an acquaintance who can give you a 60 word sentence, 42 of those words being the “f” word or its derivatives, and it makes perfect sense. It seems to me that our society is being a little anal retentive about its use. My son tells me that my concerns for the English learner are not well founded … that the word is so self explanatory that I need not fear, the learner will very quickly figure it out.
Many people, especially those on the left, toss around the word, “bigot.” The definition of bigot is a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance. I ask, wouldn’t you be bigoted yourself if you called someone that you know nothing about a bigot? What does a person from blue America know about someone from red America?
Feminists love to call red blooded macho men misogynists … is it possible that they are misandronists?
Another word is the “n” word. The “n” word is not always a derogatory word in speech or print. The black people in present America use it all the time to describe themselves. My grandfather built levees on the Mississippi between Memphis and Natchez before 1900. He supervised black workers who had been born in slavery in doing this work. In describing the work that he (and they) did, he used the word that they called themselves, the “n” word. I cannot convey the rich stories that he told me about his experiences without using the vernacular that he used. Ernest Hemmingway, arguably America’s greatest author, has been quoted as saying that the greatest novel in American history is Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.” It is a story that canonizes “Nigger Jim.” This marvelous story uses the “n” word 231 times. I am told that modern, self appointed speech censors have taken it upon themselves to purge modern editions of the story of that word. In a country where freedom of speech is one of our God given rights, how dare these insignificant human mice commit such an odious atrocity. Thank God that my copy of the story was published before 1910. Really, we should not judge our ancestors by our standards today … isn’t it possible that they were more moral and ethical then than we are today?
Whatever happened to our good humored jokes jabbing the ethnicity of our neighbors and friends. There used to be jokes about Krauts, Bohunks, Japs, Nips, Squints, Slants, Slopes, Ruskies, Greasers, Wops, Limeys, Jews, Pollock’s, Finns, Huns, Camel Drivers, Turban Heads, Arabs, Heimes, Pierres,Wetbacks, Niggers, Kilroy, Queers, Frankie and Jonnie, Rastus and Liza, miners, farmers, Gooks, loggers, mill workers, Preachers, WCTU, railroaders, Bums, Hobos, flyers, sailors … and on and on. All now lost to political correctness … maybe a good thing, but a sad day for ribald humor.
What kind of a hunter would say that he went hunting and euthanized a deer? What is gay about the homosexual lifestyle? It does our society no justice to use euphemisms for real life actions or situations … it demeans our personal and national character and civilization.
Vegetarians tell me that they would never eat anything that had been killed (euthanized?). The simple truth is that everything in the salad that the vegetarian eats is alive. All animals ultimately depend on plant life for food, that is, if you think about it. We need to get real and use our thoughts and language correctly.
The bankers and government officials talk about “inflation” ostensibly caused, they aver, by the ravenously greedy general public and corporations, but they should be talking of the “deflation” of the value of our money caused by their interjection into the economy of fiat (counterfeit) money printed by the Federal Reserve Bank.
But the political uses of words to incite discontent and war are without a doubt the most profound manifestation of the bastardization of the language.
Let’s get this straight … the American Republic was set up to protect the freedom of the individual, something never done before in human history. Socialism is premised on committees of intellectual elite dictating every part of the life of the individual … it is the antithesis of freedom, it is dictatorship by committee. Karl Marx called it dictatorship of the Proletariat. Socialism always requires a strong police force to force the masses into compliance, a command society. In Germany it was the Gestapo, in Russia the NKVD, in China the Red Guard. Of course, the Communists were (are) an International organization and absolutely savage, with their purges and Gulags … they were (are) the far far left. The Nazis were a socialistic national movement initially in one country and therefore more responsive to their constituents, the German people. They did not attack the general public like the Communists did in Russia. Their system, called fascism, was a compact between big business and government designed to control the masses … true, very evil, but much milder than the Soviets, a command society nonetheless … but well to the right of Russia. Therefore, they were right wing leftists.
The guardians of our Republic, the Libertarians, the Constitutionalists, the “Original Intentors” and the Right Wing Republicans are branded by the Progressive, Left Wing Socialists and Communists in America as “Right Wing Radicals.” Have you ever considered the irony of calling people who believe in the Constitution “radicals?” Their favorite tactic is to equate believers in the Republic with those on the right side of socialism, the fascists of Germany and Italy, Hitler and Mussolini. Although the fascists were to the right of the Communists, those right wing socialists were (are) so far to the left of the American Right as to be out of sight over the horizon. However, the American Left can easily see the left wing of the socialists. Just listen to them every day. They are always calling on government to force business to do something to the people. The American socialists are in fact lovers of that which they denigrate, the fascists. Their tactics have been fruitful in the past, when they have and do brand the far right as bigots and racists, conveniently forgetting that the antecedents of their existence, the old Democratic Party were the slavers, the authors of the “Jim Crow” laws, and the members of the Ku Klux Klan that lynched and terrified the postbellum south. They accuse their adversaries of the crimes that they themselves commit or have committed and many of the credulous American populace believe them. A present case in point are the actions of the acolytes of the Hillary Clinton campaign who colluded with the Russians to affect the last Presidential election and who are now accusing the Trump campaign of what they themselves did.
The story is that Vladimir Lenin and one friend went to a meeting of the Socialist 2nd International, probably in 1896, ostensibly representing Russian socialism. When he got there a numerous delegation representing Russian socialism led by Leon Trotsky was already in attendance. Lenin was undeterred and harangued the gathering relentlessly. He was questioned about his authority to speak, because the Trotsky delegation was much larger. He replied that in Russia his group, although in fact it was not, was the far larger group. He said his group were the Bolsheviki, Russian for majority and Trotsky’s group were the Mensheviki, Russian for minority. Through this lie, the words stuck and the Russian Communists became the Bolsheviks.
But the word-lie that troubles me the most is when the American left, the Statists, the Socialists, the Communists, allied with the leadership of the modern left wing of the Democratic party call themselves, Progressives. Applying the word Progressive to socialism is like applying gay to homosexuality. The word Progressive infers an advancing society, excellence in the arts and sciences, in medicine, education and philosophy … generally the advancement of all things good. Once again, they are co-opting the meaning of a good word to mean just the opposite. There is nothing progressive about any of the socialistic command societies. Ultimately socialism has to be forced upon a society by gunpoint. Free Americans fought these horrible societies for the entire 20th Century and finally contained , minimized or defeated them all. But for us oldsters we must remember that we are well into the second generation of people that know nothing of those horrible societies. We must make the uninformed informed about the dangers of the demagogues preaching to us with perverted words about the glories of socialism with their honey dipped words of enslavement.
Yes, words and the perversion of words have great effect on our lives and freedom … it is time to start calling a spade a spade and use the correct words to explain things as they actually are. I know that you can add to my list of misused words and lying phrases … give it a try and then stomp on those you find.
The Oxford English Dictionary has over a half million English words in it … there are plenty of words for us to express exactly what we mean.