When Lewis Carroll’s Alice goes Via the Looking-Glass, she finds a planet turned upside down—especially in regard to words and phrases. Trying to have a practical conversation only can make her head harm. Nowhere is this a lot more clear than in her meeting with Humpty Dumpty, who can take almost nothing she states at face worth and enjoys a awesome knock-down argument: “There’s glory for you!”
“But ‘glory’ does not signify a ‘nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.
“When I use a phrase,” Humpty Dumpty stated in alternatively a scornful tone, “it indicates just what I choose it to mean—neither far more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make terms indicate so lots of distinctive points.”
“The issue is,” reported Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
I’ve encountered this passage a whole lot recently, in reference to latest convulsions in the English language. Words are shifty factors that echo what a culture is pondering, but they normally consider their have sweet time to change. Until a revolution is underway, as in the 1790s, when French Jacobins insisted that “Sir” and “Madame” be changed with “Citizen” and “Citizeness.” Vocabulary by diktat typically lasts only as very long as the diktat-ors, but Humpty Dumpty is accurate: Common acceptance of a expression depends on who’s winning the argument.
For instance, the conditions sexual intercourse and gender used to be interchangeable. Then they divided, the former referring to biology and the latter to id. But in the brave new environment of gender ideology, sex is something we do, not a little something we are. At WriteInclusion.org, the “Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity” doesn’t define sex at all, but has lots to say about “Gender Binary,” “Gender Expansive,” and “Gender Inequality.”
The group’s 13-webpage “Expanded Glossary” offers guidance for writers and media experts on a broad industry of verbiage, these types of as “haka” (a Maori ceremonial dance), “Melanesia” (a subregion of Oceania), “code-switching” (applying far more than a single language in a dialogue), “tiki culture” (a cultural appropriation), “tiger parenting,” “DACA,” “Islamophobia,” and “womxn” (a time period for a gender that removes “man” but might be offensive to nonbinary people). Some of these glossary definitions could be handy, some are questionable, and practically all tilt leftward but current them selves as gospel real truth.
“Gender binary,” for instance, is “the untrue, extensive-held societal and cultural categorization of gender into just two unique and opposite terms.” “Allah,” nonetheless, is the “same God worshipped by adherents of [Muslim,] Christian and Jewish faiths”—a untrue cultural categorization if there at any time was one. But then, the document, which provides enough area to Islamic, Buddhist, Druze, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Yazidi faiths, under no circumstances defines Christianity or Judaism.
Outdated terms that must transform are “Middle East” (a relic of colonialism that ignores North Africa—use “MENA” rather), “Internment” (which tender-pedals Japanese American incarceration), and “slave.” “Enslaved person” is desired, because it “separates a person’s identity from his/her circumstance.”
Outdated thoughts include things like the “medical design of incapacity,” which assumes that all so-referred to as handicaps ought to be corrected if doable. The authorized “social model” puts the onus on modern society to fill any gaps triggered by a person’s impairment. And fork out awareness when “Disability” is capitalized: That indicates the individual who claims the adjective identifies with it. For instance, a Deaf man or woman identifies with a lifestyle and group, although a deaf human being basically cannot hear.
Stereotypes? “Mean lady,” “dragon lady,” and “damsel in distress” are all techniques to denigrate gals. Nonetheless, “patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity” are not stereotypes but the poisoned root of these evils as the wage gap, homophobia, mansplaining, and segregated bogs. WriteInclusion.org passes flippantly around genuine terrorism and violence: “Jihad” just suggests to “strive and battle for God,” and blatant Chinese aggression towards Hong Kong is, er, “quite sophisticated.”
Language has been a battleground ever because the serpent questioned Eve what God actually said. In the latest struggle for mastery, the revolutionaries appear to have the gain, but the Creator of language has the definitions. Relaxation in that, and in any discussion under no circumstances fall short to inquire, “What do you mean by that?”