Tag: words and meanings

The (barely-) hidden agenda of racial equity glossaries

A dictionary reports equivalencies. A "racial equity glossary" dictates them.

A dictionary reports equivalencies. A “racial equity glossary” dictates them.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

From Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There” (1871)

Recently,  OpporrtunityNow, a San Jose-based website/resource for entrepreneurs, invited me to comment on the City of San Jose’s Racial Equity Glossary.

Here’s what I sent them:

Language control through perceived offense: how far can p.c. go?

As with any religion, the p.c. folks make it up as they go along. Self-appointed experts decide that yet another word - in this case, a word in a different language, may cause offense, and the cancer of political correctness advances, one word at a time.

As with any religion, the p.c. folks make it up as they go along. Self-appointed experts decide that yet another word – in this case, a word in a different language! – is a “trigger.” The cancer of political correctness advances, one word at a time.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

— George Orwell

In these times of language abuse and language control – when a Supreme Court nominee cannot define “woman” (because she is so politically compromised) – I must once again note that manufactured offense knows no limits.  There is no end to it, even though it crosses the bounds of commonsense and reason.

The real pronoun problem: political “we”

Political speech is full of lies, euphemisms, deceptions, and nonsense, with words large and small. One of the most deceptive small words is political “we.”

 

Pronouns, considering that they comprise only a short list of words, are one of the most fascinating aspects of English grammar.  All of them have multiple meanings, and there’s a lot of room for fuzzy interpretation and language deception.

Let’s focus on “we.”

It can mean ‘you (singular or plural) and I,’ but nobody else.  Or ‘you and I and (un)named) others.’  Or ’I and one or more others, but not you.’

“War” or “defense”? Propaganda and the value of repetition

“Defense Department” or “War Department”? Repetition breeds acceptance. But what part of America are these soldiers “defending”?

 

“The truth is what most people believe.  And they believe that which is repeated most often.”

Paul Josef Goebbels

The quote is from the man who served as Hitler’s Propaganda Minister and who (BTW, he was a linguist like me, with a doctorate in philology) would today feel quite at home in a PR or ad firm, or at the CIA or a related secret agency, or at one of the big tech companies.

Government creates a new “domestic terrorist threat.”  And where are the linguists?

Some of the many aspects of linguistics

Somewhere in this word cloud is “comment on language abuses in public discourse” and “resist political attempts at language and thought control.”
Nothing happens without language, and in the current social turmoil, one side is blatantly attempting control through language.
Linguists remain silent..

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

  • – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

“The goals migrated:” malicious obfuscation in political speech  

It's all too rare that political speech comes off as anything but "blah." It doesn't have to be that way.

Political speech relies on verbal manipulation, one prominent example: impersonal expressions which avoid assigning (or taking) responsibility.

“Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, a retired rear admiral, recently said that during the long U.S. undertaking in Afghanistan ‘the goals did migrate over time.’  Did the goals themselves have agency – minds of their own?”

George Will

When I listen to or read the speech of the people who represent the government and the military-industrial complex, I hear malicious obfuscation.   By that I mean that they speak, as bureaucrats and politicians always have, in terms that, because people on the receiving end rarely subject them to critical scrutiny, are accepted at face value, though a moment’s consideration reveals how devious and deceptive they are.

“Critical Race Theory,” Part II: Where are the linguists?

Some of the many aspects of linguistics

Linguistics consists of many sub-disciplines, all devoted to the study of language.

“Linguistics is virtually invisible to most people…”

— Roger Shuy, Language Crimes, 1996

“Critical Race Theory” is not going away.  Although the slogan is heard almost everywhere in academia and education, almost no one inquires into what it actually means in practice.

It means a lot of different things, which is a good thing for its adherents and practitioners because, they can do anything they want in the name of this impressive- sounding undertaking.

“Critical Race Theory”: A triumph of marketing and branding

It is politically incorrect to question the real meaning of "Critical Race Theory." And that's the way its proponents like ie.

It takes courage and clear thinking to question the all-pervasive indoctrination of Critical Race Theory. But what does the phrase actually mean?

As there is now an inexorable push to make Critical Race Theory a required part of America’s educational system, pushback is  required.  Kudos to Andrew Gutman,  the Brearly (NY) School father who stood up, in no uncertain terms, to the relentless indoctrination to which his kid had been subjected (for $50,000+/year).

Twice poisoned

As Candace Owens notes, CRT is a double poison, taking time from teaching academic skills and at the same time producing a generation of non-thinking, malleable sheep.

On “semantic games” and “infrastructure”

What is a language?

A language is a vast, amorphous consensus among its users as to how words are equivalent to each other and associated with our subjective and objective worlds.

 When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

There is nothing “mere” about semantics!

Latest language crime: “equity”

 

A new brick has been added to the wall of politically correct speech: "equity" -- a euphemism for more (and unending) racial and gender preferences in pursuit of an undefinable and unattainable goal.

It takes courage and clear thinking to resist the liberal preoccupation with racial/gender preference and language control.

[In George Orwell’s 1984] Syme [a Party official] encourages Winston to recognize that the ‘whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought’.   He explains that ‘in the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.’  Syme refers to the fact that individual thought, rebellious or ‘unorthodox’ thoughts will be impossible and so, too, will the true concept of individual freedom.   Each concept will be expressed in just ‘one’ word.   Any ‘subsidiary’ meanings will be rubbed out and forgotten. (55).The party controls the mind through the control of language (Newspeak), the control of history (the past) and the control of war/ enemies, [via] the process of DoubleThink.

Latest language abuse: “deprogramming Trump supporters”

Deprogramming is a brutal concept. For one side in American politics to urge it on the other is deplorable. An alternative is compromise on the part of both sides, so that Americans learn to live with each other.

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.

— Nietzsche

We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them.

— Goethe

To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.

— Stanislaus I of Poland

RIP Philip Roth, prophet of political correctness

 

Philip Roth produced a tremendous volume of work, on a machine like this. In “The Anatomy Lesson,” he writes of a man tortured by neck pain – possibly from all the typewriting.

“He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach – that it makes no sense.”

― Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“You put too much stock in human intelligence, it doesn’t annihilate human nature.”
― Philip Roth, American Pastoral

 

A prophet of political correctness

One of my favorite authors, Philip Roth, died recently, leaving a magnificent body of work. Unlike other personal faves, Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud, who composed mostly in the key of J (for “Jewish”; Malamud’s The Natural is an exception), Roth’s versatility was truly impressive.

The weaponization of language

Our society is divided by many conflicting forces, but two of them are in our face almost all the time, roiling America like the whirling blades of the old MixMaster – and causing just as much confusion.

Both are related to the field in which I was trained – linguistics. Both center on language – not surprising, since language is a multi-purpose tool without which we would not be human.

I think of them as two mega-issues, each with a constellation of sub- and intersecting issues.

  1. 1. Hate speech and fighting words