Monday, November 26, 2007

We won't hear a word they say

I would like to start a petition to remove the following words from our vocabulary:

This is an arbitrary word that weakens any argument. It is a word we use to distance ourselves from a person, idea, or thing so that it is easier to hate that thing. For example, child molesters are evil. Now you can hate child molesters. You don't have to empathize with them. You don't have to sympathize for them. You don't have to consider motives or individual circumstances. They are distant, generalized, and evil.

What would happen if we replaced the word evil with a word or phrase that actually means something? Molesting children causes a lot of pain and hurts children in terrible ways. Suddenly it's not distant. We still can see how harmful molesting children is, but we allow ourselves to think about the molester independent of molesting. Maybe the perpetrator is a child himself. Maybe he is a victim himself. Maybe there is something we don't know about him.

This word also weakens any argument. It is a word we use to categorize things that we don't like. It is so specific to personal preference, exposure, and cultural bias, however, that we just can't use it to say that something is bad. For example, I used to hate hamburgers. Growing up, I insisted that ground beef was gross, and I wouldn't eat it. I refused. Homemade or McDonald's didn't matter, it was gross.

I had my first hamburger on my mission, and it was delicious. Ever since I've had to limit my hamburger intake so I don't get fat. What made it suddenly not gross any more? Increased exposure. I tasted it! It helped that my preferences matured and I lived in a society that encourages burger eating. If I had served my mission in India, it might have been a different story.

This is a word that I am as guilty of bastardizing as anyone else. Never. What a final, generalizing, hasty word to use. We should never say never. It implies knowing something that you don't know. We live in a changing world. The conditions that make something so now will eventually change. For example, I'll never be able to understand you. Well, then suddenly I find myself in a similar circumstance. Suddenly I understand. (that was a really unspecific example. sorry).

Clearly these words need to be eliminated from our vocabulary. Who's with me? Let's rid the world of ignorance one word at a time. Cause these aren't the only three. If I can get enough support with these words, then maybe I'll enlarge the blacklist. Before you know it, we'll have our own little censored community where no one gets offended and where all statements are perfectly neutralized. And, hopefully, where no one says anything stupid.


J G-W said...

Those words are evil and gross, and I would NEVER use them.


I very much like the idea of avoiding these kinds of crutch words. It does force you to think more about what you're talking about; it forces you to explain what you don't like about something, rather than assuming that everybody takes the same things for granted you do.

Pan said...

The "Evil" discussion is extraordinarily astute. Bravo.

And I'm all for vocabulary awareness (that could be a holiday sometime in August, Vocabulary Awareness Day), but I'm not big on prohibition. Words are my liquor and I want to slosh around in all the cocktails I can.

I'm not sure what that means.

Anyway, I'm still going to use evil to describe certain cats.

Other words I know I should use more sparingly are kill and die. "I'm going to kill you!" Or "that blister was killing me" or "It hurt so bad, I was just dying!" After surviving multiple blisters, I've learned that these words soon lose meaning.

Brady said...

If we remove the word 'evil' then we also must remove the word 'good.' There has to be opposition in all things. I agree with the need to qualify our usage of the words though, and explain why something is good or evil.

And if you're going to expand the blacklist I vote you add 'hypocrite.'

draco said...

And I vote that you add 'pity.'

Abinadi said...

Brady does have a point. Good and evil go hand in hand. So are you willing to rid the world of good too?

One of So Many said...

Words definitely have a life of their own. Connotations and denotations can can elicit different emotions and perceptions.

I think everyone should have their ability to use any words they want, even if they are less effective choices. But it doesn't mean that we can't comment and push them to do better.

playasinmar said...

Evil has never been so gross.

Peter said...

I think a few of you have missed my point. I'm not trying to get rid of the concepts, simply the way in which we abuse the words.

playasinmar said...

The evil has the never been so the gross.

J. Rebecca said...

Actually no. You were right before. Ground beef is super gross.