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Arrrrghasm: Language, Dictionaries, And Other Bits

April 22, 2016

A person is smart; people are stupid.

I find this notion of defending things using the dictionary definition of a word to be rather inane. Mostly because language is a fluid construct and dictionaries only keep the current meaning for so long. So your definition maybe has a shelf life of only a decade or so before that word means something completely different or it morphs into another term entirely. I don’t think if you call anyone ‘gay’ that they automatically assume the person is just really happy anymore. Although they might!

I also find it intellectually dishonest as well. It seems like the lazy way to distance yourself from a group. Yes, I’m obliquely referring to feminism, but it’s really any group that does this. They use it to distance themselves from people that they personally don’t approve of. It goes like so:

Person A: [says something offensive]

Person B: See? This is the problem with [insert ideology here]

Person C: But that’s not what a [insert ideology] believes! Just look in the dictionary!

The problem here, again, is that your mileage varies with regards to dictionary definitions, because obviously this person believes they’re living up to that ideology’s ideals. It’s a variation of the No True Scotsman only the ‘evidence’ that various people use is to point to a dictionary. See? It proves we only fart the finest of aromas and leave five dollars under children’s pillows when they lose a tooth. See how noble we are! But no, that’s not good enough. I generally believe that any group, ideology, or what have you, should at least shout down the people that do evil in its name.

But they don’t. Instead they insist that the person pointing out the bad actions of their practitioners are wrong and that’s not what they are. It’s in the dictionary. Therefore anyone acting contrary to the dictionary definition are by virtue not in the club, yo. But that’s bullshit. Obviously they feel they are. I’m not saying that you should entirely own them as whatever you are, but you should at least be loud enough to overcome the bad actors and not just telling people to look in a dictionary.

That’s lazy and a cheap way to deflect criticism. Obviously any ideology or group will have its extremists–which is why I don’t join them as I’d much rather let my actions speak for me instead of telling someone what I am and then see them sneer or their eyes glaze over. However, if you do ascribe to an ideology or group and make that a part of your identity, at least have the balls to own up to the fact that you have extremists instead of trying to sweep them under the carpet like a 4 year old who’s been told to clean their room.

I love language, it’s been a love of mine since at least the 9th grade. I was never much of a reader when I was younger because my teachers always gave us this really dry stuff to read. I hated it and figured if that was what reading was all about then I could do without. But I developed a love language–any language, even those I cannot personally speak. It’s pretty cool. It informs a culture and is probably our most useful invention.

I had to develop language skills pretty quick, though, because ;et’s face it: I’m never going to have the physical prowess to hurt someone if they’re threatening me. So! I needed a way of protecting myself without violence and I chose to ‘get good’ with language. So, when I see someone using the dictionary to protect their pet cause, I get irked. I’ve seen Christians use it a lot. And American Muslims have gotten in on the act as well as I’m seeing feminists doing it a lot as well. These groups and ideologies are pretty shameless about it, too. That’s what gets under my skin.

Just own up to the extremists and then work on purging them. This whole, “They’re not really ________,”just muddies the waters and is just really cowardly and doesn’t help your cause at all. Or branch off from those extremists and form a new name for yourself. Either way I don’t really care except that discussions on these issues are fucking annoying. Yeah, I know this probably isn’t my best work, but ‘eh…I needed to get this out here because it’s been building for a long time. Since 2004 at least.

 

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