More and more these days, the Word or Grammar police are out in force.
So lets take a look at a few words that were used around the world for centuries until someone applied them to a specific thing/ person or group of people and thus, these words were in a very real sense outlawed for use by everyone else just because a few people decided to change and/or add to the meaning of the original word thereby changing the context by which it is used often times giving the word a completely different connotation altogether.
As I began this article these words stood out to me immediately and so we begin. Oh... and the spelling for some of these words are a little different than what most of us are used to so I will endeavor to add them and their newly spelled versions to the page as well.
In Webster's Dictionary in 1828 that word is defines Gay as:
Merry, airy, sportive, jovial and frolicksome (frolicsome). It denotes more life and animation than cheerful as in: “She smiled and all the world was gay.”
Gayety (Gaiety): Merriment, mirth, airiness as in: “A company of gaiety.” Finery, show.
Gayly : Merrily with mirth and frolic. Finely, splendidly, pompously as “Ladies gayly dressed. A flower gayly blooming.
Gayness: Gayety(gaiety) or Finery.
Gaysome: This word is rarely used but it means: Full of Gayety(gaiety).
Notice that there is no mention of what modern society has decided is it's meaning. Not one single solitary mention of that word even remotely alludes to homosexuality.
Simply put, “Gay” means to be happy and joyous.
Yet it has been rendered by modern society to a “label” upon people and to use the word by someone whom has employed it in it's original meaning has relegated the user to being insulting, homophobic and/or not politically correct.
It's interesting to me that the word “Gay” remained with the same meaning as in 1828 until 1953 when the homosexual reference was added to it.
And now the word police have stamped it's usage as “Strictly forbidden.”
I was just thinking of one of my favorite Broadway musicals “West Side Story.”
It saddened me to think that in a world that is more concerned with political correctness than the actual issues at hand, that I wondered if the song lyrics to the first verse in the song, “I Feel Pretty” could be seized upon by the word police under the auspices of political correctness allowing them to raise such a ruckus as to have the lyrics changed from their original:
“I feel pretty, Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and gay
And I pity any girl who isn't me today” …....to something else more politically correct?
Oh please, lets hope not.
Sound ridiculous? It really is...but so is the whole idea of being politically correct and the word police.
This word means: To delay, tardus, slow, late. To diminish the velocity of motion. To render.
Retardation: The act of abating the velocity of motion. Hinderance, the act of delaying as in the retardation of the motion of a ship.
Retarded: Hindered in motion, delayed.
Merriam Webster's Dictionary also lists the word retard as it applies to musical composition.
Music: A slackening of tempo.
Notice, there is no mention of a person here. The term “Retard” means to slow or delay, yet the word police are right on top of this one!
It moves one to wonder if composers will someday be required to stop using the direction in their manuscripts?
How will they command the musicians to slow, delay or slacken the tempo without retard in the musical direction?
I guess the orchestra should just run amok and not slow down where needed....but hey at least they'd be politically correct right?
Modern society has included in the definitions of this word of how it can apply to people regarding development or speech.
It still means to slow or delay, but we are not insensitive to that word when anyone in society applies it to human beings.
It is then usually meant as a slur and it feels different and as it should, it moves most of us to compassion for the person it has been applied to.
Now here is a word that gets a lot of press these days. I discovered meanings but it's origin in a dictionary from 1810.
The word police are out on the job here again and have practically outlawed this word too because unfortunately in this day in age, this word is perceived by many as a racial slur.
But here is it's origin:
Thug is defined as: A vicious criminal or ruffian. Sometimes referred to as a fraternity of professional
robbers and murderers suppressed by the British in the 19th century 1800-1810. The Hindi word for these folks is: Thag: Literally meaning rogue or cheat.
Thuggery is the noun and Thuggish, the adjective.
The meaning of this word can apply to anyone who engage in these kinds of illegal activities, regardless of their race, color, creed or national origin....just not according to the word police.
It's a sad commentary on our society when words that mean one thing are picked and chosen and then turned around to mean something completely different.
Now on to the ridiculous:
The word police are alive and well in the City of Seattle, where they have outlawed the use of the words:
Brown Bag: (you know like the one so many of us have carried lunch in) and....
Citizen: As in: A citizen of the country.
All I have to say to this is when the word “Chocolate” is outlawed...I'm outta here!
In this world communication is everything and unless I keep on top of it apparently, I may run the risk of using words that may mean one thing to me but may not be received in the same way by someone else. I find this intolerable, without merit and completely ridiculous.
Misunderstandings is a surety here and in order to avoid that, perhaps we should leave our words to their original meanings and teach them to our children that way...at least then we'd all be on the same page on any subject.
Words are our usual means of communication and it is well to remember that it's not so much the words we use, but how these words are expressed, meaning, it is the spirit of the words we employ that make all the difference in any conversation.
Words can be beautiful, they can act as a healing salve, but they can also be used to harm.
While I have absolutely no use whatsoever for political correctness or the word police, my mother always said:
“If you don't have anything nice to say about someone or something, then don't say anything at all.”
However, that doesn't mean to remain silent when a situation presents itself.
It means to think first, listen and be considerate. To be deliberately thoughtful and when necessary to speak responsibly, having a marked regard for the needs and feelings of the other person or people I am speaking to.
Proverbs 18: 21 says:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.”
So for me, this means that I should take great care to try always to speak life with the words I use.
I saw this online recently ...I think my Mother would have approved:
T: Is it true?
H: Is it helpful?
I: Is it inspiring?
N:Is it necessary?
K:Is it kind?
It's common sense really, food for thought and wise words indeed.