Language

A real challenge to reasoned, logical discussion arises when the meaning of words change, or they mean different things to different people.

Each edition of dictionaries of English have definitions of words revised and changed from the previous edition, a fact that demonstrates that word usage inevitably changes over time, sometimes over very short periods of time. Sometimes, even, in the midst of a discussion!

Some changes are from society attitudes, from what is viewed as correct. It used to be acceptable to discriminate between the waiter and the waitress but now extra words are needed. Who took my order? The female waiter; the waiter with the long hair; the waiter near the counter; in fact, it was the waitress. Why did we not drop the word waiter and replace it with a generic waitress? Why do we not refer to the waiter as the male waitress?

“Politically correct” changes like this do not need logical reasons; they simply require conformity to appease those who find something offensive in the current usage. Some in the community agree with those who are offended, others have no problem accommodating them, others adapt without understanding why people are offended at all. Because so few, if any, people find anything offensive in the changes they are implemented.

Some changes are inevitably somewhat clumsy, such as “chair” or “chairperson” instead of chairman or chairwoman. Some seem unfinished, such as “fisher” instead of fisherman.

Because some women did not want their title to indicate whether they were married or not the alternative to “Mrs” became “Ms”. It seems no thought was given to men who would be happy to declare they are married and so no married form of “Mr” was developed.

There are people who are demanding to be allowed to enter same-sex marriages so society should be prepared to acknowledge their married state. It would be proper to devise appropriate honorifics! Already some women in partnership with another women refers to one as the husband, one the wife, with similar titles being used by pairs of men.

So does a woman married to a man need to clarify the situation by referring to her “male husband” or leave it undefined by referring to her spouse – a nice non-gender-specific word.

No doubt there are good reasons why forms we fill in do not refer to husband or wife but rather to partner, however, there are increasing numbers of people wanting to declare they are married – either to someone of the same or different gender.  To accommodate this desire presumably “partner” will become a politically incorrect term.

Spin is a form of manipulative language which slips by us most of the time but which leaves logic behind, traps the unwary into forms of thinking which, when the argument is put in clear, unambiguous and non emotive language would at least raise questions in people’s minds.

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