The best part of Liberty magazine is the "Word Watch" column by Stephen D. Cox (faithful blog readers will immediately recognize this name as the author of the wonderful Isabel Paterson biography, The Woman and the Dynamo, but, never fear, this isn't an IMP post). In his column, Dr. Cox explores all of the vagaries of expression that have infiltrated this complex and dynamic English language. He's a complete semantics curmudgeon, with an uncanny ability to finger exactly all of the absurdities of linguistic contortion that assault our unsuspecting sensibilities daily in this media-saturated age. Needless to say, I love it all, even when his j'accuse pointer is fixed upon one of my own pet devices. It never hurts, when you strive for excellence and clarity in the use of language, whether on paper or in speaking, to have a nagging voice out there reminding you constantly that words do indeed mean things.
In this spirit, I would like to offer up some of my least-favorite phrases that have been done to death and yet still retain the ability not to mean anything at all in concrete reality. Here's some of what I hate and why:
1) "Bush's tax cuts only helped his rich friends." Hmmm...Bush's tax cuts helped and continue to help our family amazingly, but the last time we tried to get into a White House function, we were turned away at the door. My life as one of Bush's rich friends has certainly not resulted in boosting my social life one bit. Maybe the people who think that several hundreds of dollars in federal income tax savings doesn't represent a real difference in someone's life are too rich to know better; but, if so, why aren't they among Bush's rich friends?
2) "Abortion is about 'reproductive rights.'" Abortion has nothing to do with reproduction. Once you are pregnant, you have already done your part in reproducing. Now, all the reproduction that is going on is being done by your little baby, as he grows and grows. Abortion is about killing that little baby. The only ones whose "reproductive rights" can be violated after conception are the babies.
3) "Abortion just terminates a pregnancy." I hate this euphemism. Abortion kills a baby, and then the pregnancy is terminated. The pregnancy is supposed to terminate naturally at 9-10 months, with the baby putting an end to it by demanding to come out. Childbirth terminates pregnancy, abortion exterminates children. I like this quote I read in Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments from the Feminists for Life Debate Handbook: "Prolifers don't object to terminating pregnancies. Pregnancies are only supposed to last a short while. We favor terminating them at around nine months. The objection is to killing children." (70)
4) "Product of conception." Another disgusting pro-abortion euphemism to cloud the issue and shield the fragile consciences of aborting women. "Oh, dearie, it's not a baby...it's just a product of conception, a clump of cells." A product of human conception is a baby human. So, we are all "products of conception." You and I just happen to be big products of conception, well along our developmental paths, and able to run away from someone coming after us to rip off our limbs or inject us with saline. Those poor, murdered unborn babies weren't able to do that, but I bet they would have if they could have.
5) "A Woman's Sacred Right to Choose." No one ever finishes that statement, which would then be, "A woman's sacred right to choose to murder her baby." That's what we're talking about. Not choosing a dress or a husband or even to smoke pot - all of which are, I believe, legitimate choices that women make concerning their lives or their bodies. We're talking about a "choice" to kill another separate human being who is as innocent as innocent can be. I don't think there is anything "sacred" about that; in fact, it is utterly reprehensible.
6) "No-Fault Divorce." There is always fault in divorce. It may be heavily on one side or the other, or it might be pretty evenly divided between husband and wife, but there is always fault. Using terms like "no-fault" is destructive to marriage as an institution, because it implies that the union formed in this unique contract is rather casual and temporal. This bond that was pledged to last for all earthly time has disintegrated, but, hey, it's nobody's fault - these things just happen. Marriage is not something that "just happens" and neither is divorce. We need to start pointing fingers in divorce again.
7) "Irreconcilable Differences." The only difference that should have been irreconcilable was God's holiness to our sin. Jesus took care of that by His sacrifce. Now, there are no differences that are irreconcilable, especially for those of us who live under His grace. This is a euphemism to shield people's feelings and reputations. The father was a serial adulterer, but don't tell the kids or the rest of the family, it's just an "irreconcilable difference" from the way the mother sees the marital commitment. The mother is an alcoholic whom the father finds passed out drunk on the couch at the end of every day, but that is just an "irreconcilable difference." Start holding people responsible for their actions.
8) "Reality TV." There is nothing real about "reality TV." More and more, the situations on these shows seem contrived, and there are not even skilled writers on staff to cover up the implausibilities with well-written dialogue. Case in point, the season finale of "The Amazing Race 7." Don't get me wrong, I was rooting for Uchena and Joyce to win - they were by far the most likeable racers - but I am not so naive to believe that that airplane in Puerto Rico turned back to the gate without a little prodding from Phil and the good folks at CBS. Having one team way ahead would not have been "good television." Call it "unscripted TV" and be done with it!
So, there you have it - a few terms and phrases that bug the heck out of me. Feel free to add your own contributions to this irksome list in the "Comments" section, as the spirit moves you.
Peace to all,