War of the Words

No. The title is not a typo.  You read it correctly.  It is “War of the Words,” not war of the worlds.  In some ways, a war of the worlds, might be easier to deal with than the war of words being battled today.  At least, the enemy would be clearly defined.

Throughout the course of history language has changed with time.  Some would say it has evolved, while others might say it has devolved.  It just depends on your point of view.  Regardless, of your viewpoint, most changes came about in a way that mimicked an evolutionary process.

The evolution of language accelerated as the ways humans communicated changed.  Today, the meanings of some words seem to change or expand over night.   A few years ago when someone said, “That is sick,” listeners would understand that meant something was wrong or not good.  Now it can mean something that would make someone vomit or something that would make someone grin like a fool.

The evolution of the word “sick” from a description of someone’s health to a word used to signify something is “rad” or “wicked” is not clear. However, it is barely understandable.   Before something was sick, it was rad.  Before that it might have been cool or neat, even neat-o according to urbandictionary.com.  After a few drinks it is just possible to believe that a normal evolutionary process started out with “that’s cool” and ended with “that’s sick.”

The language evolutionary process should not receive all the blame or the credit for changes in a language.  In some cases, people intentionally attempt to change the meaning of words to fit their own ends.  Often, the reasons for attempting to change the language may be benevolent. In other instances, attempting to manipulate the meaning of words is done for less than benevolent reasons.

Currently, there is a less than benevolent effort to shift the way some words are understood.  For example, the word “rich” is rapidly becoming a curse word in some arenas.  Being rich is now something that should make a person feel ashamed. Being rich is not something one should strive to become.  Rather, it is a crime for which some, including some portions of our government, wish to punish people.

Recently, a new word has been added to the list of words under attack or being manipulated.  Fortunate is rapidly becoming a pejorative word. Yes! It is now a bad thing to be fortunate.  At one time everyone wanted to be fortunate, but today being fortunate is a stigma only slightly less damning than being rich.

Anyone fortunate enough to have worked his entire adult life to earn retirement and benefits should feel shame and contrition.  Because of his good fortune, someone else may have been forced to make less than he deserved.  Or worse, someone else could not find a job and has been forced, forced to stay on public assistance for most of his life.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to come up with an idea that he turned into a business that was successful and allowed him to acquire property and worth should realize he did not do that on his own!  He could not have done it without the sweat of the masses.  He would not be where he is  today if it were not for help and assistance of government at all levels.  Because of him and others like him, children are going to sleep hungry tonight.

The rich and the fortunate are now under attack.  The government and others think the rich and the fortunate are not paying their fair share of the burden.  They are not reaching out enough to the poor. They must do more.  They must pay more.  Otherwise, children will go to bed hungry and Grandma will not get the medicine she needs.

Unfortunately, the problems in the rest of the world have shown that there are not enough rich and fortunate people to take care of all the needs of those who are not rich and fortunate.  At any moment someone will realize that a new class of people needs to be stigmatized.  There are many people who are not as well off as the fortunate and the rich, yet they are much better off than the poor.   Someone needs to come up with a name for them and start a protest.


© S. E. Jackson 2011

About S. Eric Jackson

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