Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Two Words to the Wise

I don’t make resolutions every January, but I hope for others to resolve their lives, specifically, to clean up their English. But not in a, “thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain” type of way. I just wish for certain over-used or ill-used language habits to cease.

Number one on my 2012 list should surprise no one. In fact, all people with an I.Q above double-digit levels should have this on their “clean-up-the-language” wish list: How about if we just use the word “awesome” correctly?

A woman called my house last month to setup an appointment. “Will you be home tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” she asked. I assured her I would be. “Awesome!” she replied.

Really? It inspired awe in this woman to know that I will be in my home? Now here are some things that are awesome: God is awesome, the birth of a child, sunset over the Grand Canyon…I can see all of these things inspiring awe.

But not a trip to the mall, as I once heard a teenage girl explain it. “You going to the mall?” she asked her friend. Her friend said she was, and so the first girl simply responded, “Awesome!”

This is just one more example of our penchant for language inflation. Like monetary inflation, over-used and ill-used words like awesome are just not worth what they once were.

And if homophobia is irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuals, then logically, heterophobia is irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against heterosexuals.

Just as all heterosexuals are not homophobic, all homosexuals are not heterophobic.

So, would heterophobics please stop trying to usurp the word, “marriage?” For thousands and thousands of years—millennia— marriage has meant the spiritual, social, physical, legal union of female with male, for the ultimate purpose of the perpetuation of the species.

If two people of the same sex want to join in a civil union, that’s between them, the state, and their principles. It’s therefore not my business; not my concern. Go in peace.

But please, get your own word!

Call it a civil union, call it a partnership, call it a krempfelder for all I care, but don’t steal a word that has meant something entirely different since before Moses walked the earth.

Abraham Lincoln once asked a man, “How many legs does your dog have?”
“Four,” answered the puzzled man.
“And if you were to call your dog’s tail a leg, how many legs would your dog then have,” Lincoln continued.
“Why then he’d have five,” the man answered, quite sure of himself.
“No,” Lincoln corrected him. “He would still only have four legs, because just calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

Calling a union between two people of the same sex a marriage, doesn’t make it one.

Get your own word.

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