The Language War: Artificially Speaking

This is not my first piece about the manipulation of language, and it probably will not be my last. The inspiration for this little diatribe was the information in the screenshot below. To me, it is an excellent example of how ludicrous the woke culture’s desire to change the way we speak and think can be.

First, let me make something clear. I do not care how someone identifies, what pronoun a person prefers, or what lengths someone goes to seek a balance between their vision of themselves and their physiology. To the best of my ability, I will honor their feelings on the matter.

With that said, I am becoming more and more perturbed with the grammar police, be the enforcer human or algorithm. For example, consider this comment by an editing program. It popped up when I wrote, “most of the lakes in Texas are man-made.”

Again, I understand it is important to be inclusive and open as much as humanly possible. For decades, I worked with an organization providing diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

We helped community organizations, schools, colleges, universities, corporations, and law enforcement deal with issues of discrimination and harassment.

I co-led seminars on dealing with discrimination in the workplace from south Texas to Connecticut. I also briefed government officials on hate crimes issues in higher education from California to the District of Columbia. In short, I understand and have worked to deal with issues of discrimination, exclusion, and mistreatment by employers, governmental entities, and the average Joe.

So what is my point here? It is this. I understand why many people become concerned when others use terms or labels that can be used to denigrate, directly or indirectly, people they see as different. Still, I am troubled by how some politicians, academics, and other leaders are pushing an agenda that will likely cause more issues than it solves. Consider the “sensitivity” critique I received above.

It is true that some within society may be triggered by the term man-made. However, the solution offered by the editing system I use is confusing and inaccurate. That is part of the problem with attempting to adjust the language to fit the societal biases of the moment.

The fact that human effort helped create a lake does not make it “artificial.” It is still a lake. On the other hand, there are small bodies of water today some might call lakes that are completely artificial, except for the water. You can find such artificial lakes at resorts, planned communities, amusement parks, and other locations.1

The man-made lake about which I was writing when the algorithm admonished me. Looks pretty natural to me. And, for the record, the walkway to the nature area is also man-made, and there is nothing artificial about it either. It is a real walkway over the shallows.

They are artificial for several reasons. The most important is they are not fed by natural sources. Water does not come from a spring, a creek, or a river. The water used to fill these “lakes or lagoons” comes from wells or is piped in from other locations. Bodies of water such as this are no more natural than a swimming pool. Humans completely manufacture them.

On the other hand, a “man-made” lake exists because humans constructed a dam or dug a new channel for a river or creek to form the lake. Once the human efforts were finished, the natural flowing water and rain finished the work.2

I realize some readers may still be scratching their heads, wondering what real difference this makes. They will wonder if I am not splitting hairs, but that is not the case. The reality is that how a lake came into existence is not the issue. The issue is the need to change the language because it might distract or upset someone.

One way to change society or culture is to change the language. Historically, the language evolved with societies or changes such as massive immigration, scientific advances, and similar stimuli. Today, we change the language to meet the agenda-driven outcries of activists, politicians, and others who feel superior to the rest of us.

© – 2022

  1. Some might quibble with this comment, but there are companies promoting their services to provide artificial lakes and other bodies of water.
  2. If someone wants to split hairs on this matter, it is possible to claim lakes created through human effort should properly be called reservoirs. However, every reservoir I’ve visited in my life of any size was called a lake by those who lived near it.

About S. Eric Jackson

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6 Responses to The Language War: Artificially Speaking

  1. Pingback: The Language War: Confusing the Issue? | An Old Cop's Place

  2. Em says:

    Sorry, but I find this one to be a miss. One, Grammarly’s suggestions are suggestions, not a conspiracy. Twitter shrieks at me for using the word “moron,” too. I see no problem with switching out terms like “manmade” or “fireman” for more inclusive terms. Then again, I’m not a man.

    • Thanks for taking the time to post your feedback. It appears I was not as clear as I wanted to be in the post. I am not suggesting Grammarly or other software companies are part of a conspiracy. Unless evidence emerges to the contrary, I will assume suggestions are an effort to provide information that would benefit the writer.

      I’ve had a couple of email discussions with Grammarly about some of their programming. The CSRs with whom I dialogued seemed genuinely interested in the feedback. And, if I understood them correctly, they track the number of times a writer dismisses a suggestion and will inquire about the reason if it seems there may be a legitimate conflict.

      They, along with other online information sources, seem compelled to address matters that are not part of their stated purview. That leads to suggestions such as using the term artificial to replace “man-made.” I won’t go into a long-winded discussion about why the term artificial is silly in this case, but if they had simply suggested finding a different term, it would make more sense.

      It is in some ways similar to your comment about the term “moron.” Algorithms are only as good as the person programming them and their understanding of the language. Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2019 about the problem with defining offensive language or communication. It is based on Merriam-Webster online’s definition and information concerning “idiot.” The terms moron and idiot are interchangeable based on their definitions in M-W.

      “Suffice it to say idiot is dated and offensive. On the other hand, airhead, birdbrain, chowderhead, ignoramus, nimrod, and fool are descriptive nouns. Interestingly, some of the words M-W does not flag as dated and offensive use the term idiot as a definition. For instance, nimrod is defined as slang: IDIOT, JERK.”

      In closing, I will make one final comment. My decision to use the term man-made was not because I happen to be male. In fact, I considered using the term human-made. However, after a bit of research, I determined the literature still uses the term man-made, and the term is still defined as “something that is manufactured, created, or constructed by human beings.” It is technically not a gender specific term.

      • Em says:

        Thank you for the thoughtful response. This is one of the things I enjoy on WordPress. Generally speaking, we can engage and even disagree without getting flagged by our editing programs.

        It’s nice that Grammarly was receptive: I’ve found the people there I’ve dealt with good, though I wasn’t getting into the nuts and bolts of it like you.

  3. Jim Fayle says:

    Thanks for taking the time to address a difficult current social issue, S.E.
    I admire your approach in arguing the point you make here and I agree with the opinion you expressed.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m on board with your perspective. There are those that can only see issues from their perspectives, while ignoring all the ramifications and implications. “My way or the Highway!”

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