John Andrist: Words Mean Things

Language matters.

We have to believe that axiom, because we have surrounded ourselves with evidence.

Most of us by now have picked favorites in the presidential sweepstakes, not based on anything the candidates have done or accomplished, but based on what they have said.

Think with me: What do these words have in common: stupid, brainless, idiot, rotten, clueless, Neanderthal, ignorant, nuts, robber baron.

The answer is, they are all nouns, written to describe persons, not ideas and beliefs.

And if we read newspapers and watch television news, particularly the portions that are opinion pieces, we read and hear most of those words almost daily, mostly misused as verbs, adverbs and adjectives.

They are poisoning our language, minds, and and attitudes. Their misuse is demeaning and contributes mightily to hate and polarization. They spawn divisive cynicism

Imagine a responsible journalist calling somebody an idiot because he/she has expressed real or perceived ignorant thoughts or remarks! It happens so often in the newspapers I read and the programs I watch on television.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]All of us have plenty of stupid in what we say or think, but that doesn’t make us stupid.[/mks_pullquote]

It’s not a new phenomenon. In the old world they called it “kill the messenger.” I’m told in ancient times kings and emperors actually killed messengers who delivered notes they didn’t want to see.

Today we have refined the technique. We don’t kill people. Lucky for me, because as a working columnist I would have been beheaded long ago.

But we still have a daily practice of dismissing and isolating people in order to discredit their ideas. We belittle them and call them names.

What can we do about it? For starters we can recognize what this ancient practice is doing to our society. We need to banish words like idiot and ignorant from our parlance as terms to describe people. It will be easier if we remember that we demean ourselves more than the other guy when we do it.

We can take time to politely remind friends they don’t really mean stupid, when it is not used as a modifier such as stupid idea, or stupid belief, or stupid theory.

All of us have plenty of stupid in what we say or think, but that doesn’t make us stupid.

Most of all we need to demand that our word professionals who edit our journals and television programming do a better job of upholding the principles of good language. After all, they are the experts who really understand the difference.

Wouldn’t it be simply stimulating to listen to a political debate that was free of belittling name calling?

Politicians, like the rest of us, do bad things. When they lie they are liars. But stupid and idiot? Hardly!

Words matter.

Something really worrisome

There is one thing that would be able to wipe away all the worries in our consciousness.

The presidency? Your job? Your health? Yep, all!

You probably have already guessed. A nuclear bomb. Particularly the second one.

Miraculously, although nobody has used one for 70 years, my logic tells me it has to happen some day.

A number of years back North Korea succeeded the Soviets as the most likely user of a nuclear bomb. But the near east is gradually trumping all of them, particularly when they have nuclear power available.

ISIS doesn’t simply have world domination or conquering and plundering America on their mind. They simply want to kill us.

For me, I think the likelihood is so great that it is bound to happen. So the larger question is, will there be a second bomb in retaliation?

In other words any number of crazies could send the first one. There is even the possibility it would be accidental.

It’s the second one that poses the full, scorched earth possibility, because it most certainly would trigger a third, fourth and fifth.

The presidential candidates don’t even appear to have it on their radar screen. Republicans are terrified of ISIS, and Obama thinks global warming is our number one concern.

So when I think about all the dudes who have access to a red button, which of our candidates would press the second one?

I guess I don’t really want to know. I’d rather concentrate on the weather forecast.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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