Changing language taboos

Some words are taboo, so that when they are used they constitute the “bad language” of socially inappropriate “swearing.”  Those taboo words used to consist of the irreverent use of religious language.  Then words about sex and “bodily functions” became taboo swear words.  Now,  profanity (words that profane what is sacred) and obscenity (words about what is done “out of the scene,” or out of sight, referring to sex and excretion) have become commonplace, even in public social situations.

Our culture doesn’t take religion or the body as seriously any more, so words about them are not so shocking.  Now our forbidden words are “slurs,” words that denigrate racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual groups.  The shock of hearing those taboo words and the social disapproval they create are equivalent to what the old “bad language” used to create.  So says linguist Randall Eggert, who discusses ‘how the n-word became the new f-word.” [Read more...]

New rhetorical strategies for the anti-gun crowd

Opponents of the Second Amendment, inspired by other rapid changes of public opinion, are formulating new ways of framing their arguments against the ownership of firearms:

  • Make gun ownership a public health issue, as with tobacco and drunk driving
  • Make gun ownership morally problematic, as with the Confederate flag
  • Adopt the language of  “liberty,” as in civil liberty, and “rights,” as in gay rights.  Freedom from guns.  The right not to bear arms.

See a columnist making all of these suggestions after the jump. [Read more...]

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obamacare, saying that the language of a  passage in the Affordable Care Act that limited subsidies to states that established insurance exchanges should not be allowed to undermine the larger purpose of the bill.

“In this instance,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts, “the context and structure of the act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”  Dissenting Justice Scalia said,   “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” citing the two decisions supporting the health care law, which “will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”

Responded President Obama to his victory, “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” [Read more...]

Liberals vs. Leftists on political correctness

Both liberals and leftists share the goal of social and economic equality and other progressive ideals.  But liberals believe those can be attained in terms of the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, human rights, and democracy.  On the other hand, Leftists (think Soviet Union, Maoists, other Communists, etc.) believe that liberty, human rights, and democracy must be restricted in order to attain those goals.

That’s one takeaway from a fascinating study of “political correctness” by William Voegeli in The Claremont Review of Books, who begins by discussing an article on “How the Language Police Are Perverting Liberalism.”

Notice how those who want to punish opponents of gay marriage, restrict religious liberty, not allow certain opinions to be argued, and in other ways emulating the tactics of the Soviet Union, are leftists.  Which covers quite a few people today who present themselves as liberals.

Read Voegeli’s article excerpted and linked after the jump.

[Read more...]

Post-gender Europe

Europe has gone further than the United States in embracing the new ideologies about sex, gender, and political-correctness.  And it’s going even further:  to unisex bathrooms, laws mandating women on corporate boards, and regulations about how men and women may be portrayed.  For example, it will not be legal for billboards in Germany to show women “smiling for no reason.”

What interests me are the attempts to impose–even to create–gender neutral language.  In languages such as German and Swedish in which every noun has a gender!  (In a German language class, teachers drill it into their students’ heads that the gender of a word has nothing to do with its sex!  So that the word for young woman is neuter. A spoon is masculine, a fork is feminine, a knife is neuter.)  So now the effort is to change the very grammar of these languages.  Sweden has added an “inclusive” personal pronoun to its dictionaries by fiat.  (Though linguists will explain that language doesn’t work that way.)

Details of this brave new world, which may well show up on this side of the pond before too long, after the jump. [Read more...]

Pro-abortion activists plan new strategy

The strategy of abortion apologists up to now has been to employ euphemism (“pro-choice”) and use extreme situations (rape, incest) to make their case.  Activists have now decided that to “normalize” abortion and to present it as a good thing, they need to use the word they used to draw away from, “abortion,” and emphasize the vast majority of cases motivated by convenience.  And, of course, as in the rhetorical move that can be used to justify about anything to a sentimental public, they will put a “human face” on the issue by having sympathetic women who have had abortions tell their “stories.” [Read more...]


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