Thursday, July 27, 2006

They're misappropriating my favorite words!

While speaking over with a colleague, I found myself saying "misrepresentation" instead of "lie" in a situation that most assuredly merited the latter, more black-and-white term. Yegods, thought I.

So I started mulling over other casualties, and I found some good words that don't really belong on the no-say list: graveyard, undertaker, rapist (I shit you not, my former employer - because Granite State laws call it aggravated felonious sexual assault, not rape - wouldn't call a rapist by that term in news stories.): The list goes on and on.

Some words fall out of favor for good reasons (colored, Oriental - offensive but also aspecific). Others, however, are pooh-poohed by people who don't want to be called prison guards (correctional officers), trash collectors (sanitation engineers), strippers (exotic dancers) or whatnot.

Maybe I'm too sentimental, but I think we all lose something when good words, and more to the point, good, descriptive words, fall out of common usage.

Of course, I can already hear the tinny screech of a certain Seattle-area editor: "It's a living language! Supercede is a perfectly acceptable spelling!" and all that nonsense.

To that, I say, "Bovine solid waste, you vitamin C-deficient canine!"


Holly said...

I love your euphemism for the scurvy dog!

Remember all of the flak a few years ago that a politician (whose name I forgot) received for using the word "niggardly" in a speech?

I got puzzled looks from my EHM students for using the word "catholic."

Evidently both have connotations that mean something else to the average Joe.

I'm all for expanding one's vocabularly, but this business of using more words when fewer will do has got to stop. Just be frank & to hell with those who work for the Department of Verbal Sanitation.

p.s. I sympathize with the whole by-the-book spelling thing, but even I screw words up all of the time. I probably have in one of my comments to you. If every one knows what you mean to say, then why does it have to be by-the-book? Hmmm. Now I can see the argument against using words like niggardly and catholic. If the average person misunderstands, then hwy use them? I stand by sanitizing language though. Call a rapist a rapist! And a ho a ho! Well, I suppose the argument can be made that language signals social class and those who use more vulgar language like cop, rapist, stripper, and ho indicate their working class roots. By the way, I thought trash collectors were garbage men.

Alasdair said...

yeah, but chicks pick up trash, too, so you can't call them "men"


Rich said...

A few years ago, George Carlin had a long routine with many more examples of this. He's really good pointing out how language has changed. He cites the evolution of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it changes since WWI: Shell Shock (WWI), Battle Fatigue (WWII), Operational Exhaustion(Korea) . . . , up to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Another example he cites is someone wanting to rename a manhole cover to a personhole cover.

The routine I'm referring to is Euphamisms on the following CD:

George Carlin Parental Advisory