"You can't be afraid of words that speak the truth. I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms or euphemistic language. And American english is loaded with euphemisms. Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it. And it gets worse with every generation. For some reason it just keeps getting worse."
It's been awhile since I've sat down to write an earnest journal, and an equally good while since I've been off on one of my rare but fun rants.
I've had a few ideas kicking around in my head, but had lacked the motivation or incentive to actually sit down and share them with my Deviant friends.
I had thought about getting an actual blog of my very own, something on Blogspot or something similar, but in all honesty, it barely seems worth the effort. No one but my really close friends would read it, and I'm so married to DA that straying far afield from a place where I have ready access to so much brilliant artistry and genuinely awesome people seems rather futile.
Well, that was off topic, but I was at a loss for how to start this journal, a journal which fermented itself into existence out of sheer frustration.
There's been a rather pulling, arresting cause for disconcertment in my personal life, a cause I will not be going into any detail about here, but suffice it to say that my silent, seething dissatisfaction has, as of late, become a particularly irksome burden.
When you have a sudden, irrational desire to scream until your throat is raw and bleeding and are left alone and anxious in your apartment to brood, writing down a journal with a laundry list of disparate thoughts to tie together into a coherent narrative seems like an astronomically better alternative than brooding, or getting drunk and watching "The Princess Bride" three times in a row.
So, in any case, this is a topic near and dear to me and one that has been a source of equal parts fascination and boiling frustration ever since I truly began to grasp my linguistic potential in high school: the misuse of language.
Picking a not-so-arbitrary point to start, let us begin this venomous diatribe with the misuse and mangling of language relating to matters sexual and matters of love.
Now, there are many who would construe any discussion of words relating to human sexuality as dirty or obscene, and those words which we consider to be the most taboo do often seem to revolve around our own human anatomy, natural bodily functions and the physical act of love, as if in unconscious attempt to psychically remove us from the very web of nature which many of us falsely assert we did not ascend from.
Now, the thing that particularly enrages me about the collective misuse of language, not simply in terms of love and sex but in all subjects is the confusion made from what would otherwise be pure, simple specificity.
The purpose of language is to convey thoughts and ideas in the most direct, precise manner possible. And on order to convey those ideas in an manner with which they can best be understood. To use language in a way decidedly not in accord with the way we have all collectively agreed to ply it leads not only to a failure to transmit thoughts and ideas, but a breakdown of one of the fundamental strengths our species used to became masters of the planet.
This sentiment is, of course, far afield from the truth of how misuse of language can change and transmute overtime and ultimately create such a widely-accepted variant of the original context and meaning of the original idea, that using the original language in it's correct context leads to the very miscommunication one was trying to avoid in the first place.
Perfect example. The written-in-stone, absolute, finite definition of the word "gay" is thus;
adjective, -er, -est, noun, adverb
1. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.
2. bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.
3. given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season.
But if you walked into any American high school, without getting stopped by security, and engaged in a conversation wherein you used the word "gay" in it's correct context, your meaning would be misconstrued, as you would in fact be using a one-syllable derogative which is the spur for segregation, ostracizing, intimidation, cruelty and even violence among the common rabble (or those with the intellect of common rabble) of adolescents in this country.
One might argue that the changing nature of language is an inevitable part of the cultural change that created the many languages that populate the world today. And one would be quite correct. But my point is simply that the more one acquires words to their idiolect and uses them incorrectly, the more they're potentially distorting the language which they speak and spread false information to those who might be still developing their own idiolect.
It's like Peter O'Toole said in "The Last Emperor."
"Your majesty, a gentleman must always say what he means, or he can never mean what he says."
And perhaps the most collectively damaging misuse of language is wrapped up in matters of love and sex. I have already discussed the protean nature of the word "gay." But there are so many more examples of how carnal vocabulary can become disastrously mutilated. But here, I'm going to defer to some experts.
Last year, Christopher Ryan, PhD and Cacilda Jethá, MD, co-wrote and released one of the best, most exquisite books I've ever read; "Sex at dawn, the prehistoric origins of human sexuality."
(Seriously... Go out and buy it right now...)
In the following exerp, they point out perhaps the greatest linguistic gaff anyone can commit in matters carnal.
"Take the words "Love" and "Lust." For example. These two things are as different from each other as red wine and bleu cheese, but because they can complement each other so splendidly, they tend to get conflated with amazing, dumbfounding regularity."
Then later in the same chapter, these two articulately acrobatic linguists shed what should be a stupefyingly obvious light on some more grammatical confusions that most of us should be, and yet nearly all of us seem not to be, bright enough to avoid.
"We can sleep with someone without ever closing our eyes. When we read that the politician "made love" with the prostitute, we all infer that love had little to do with it. When we report how many "lovers" we've had, are we calming to have been in love with all of them? And similarly, if we "mate" with someone, does that make us mates? Show a man a photo of a hot-looking woman and ask him if he'd like to "mate" with her. Chances are that he'll say, or think; "sure." But chances are equally good that thoughts of marriage, children and a long, stable future together never entered into his decision-making process."
Men and women are both equally guilty of misusing language when it comes to love, and to those who would argue; "What's the harm in that?" I would counter that a lapse in specificity in something so deeply personal and simultaneously important to all of us carries with it potential for trouble and unintentional hypocrisy.
As the dynamic duo pointed out, one might chastise someone for never having had a "lover" when the inquisitor has never, themselves been privy to any kind of emotional intimacy whatever and thus in spite of having "known" a great many of their fellow human beings in the biblical sense have yet have never had any true experience with the abstract yet overpoweringly impacting concept that is love.
One could claim to have found one's "Soulmate" and two years later, because of a false correlation between love and lust, become mired in the tedious proceedings of divorce court as a direct result of rushing into a nuptial before having seen their "mate" in a bad mood.
In regards to a subject that is simultaneously as universal as need for oxygen and water and yet as personal and individualistic as our genomes, we could rise above the frantic mess that carnal matters tend to create a good deal easier with a more encompassing, collective understanding of what the words we use in relation to our sex lives actually MEAN.
But that's enough of the hanky-panky for now. I still have plenty more to vent tonight.
Another great, collectively misused word that gets under my skin is the misuse of the word "Coward."
Now, again, take the dictionary definition.
1. a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person.
Now, when we as a collective use the word "Coward" to apply to someone, how often do they actually display the specific attributes ascribed to the word?
Once again I fall short as to fully encapsulate how embarrassing the misuse of this word has become, so I'm going to defer to the singularly brilliant standup comedian Doug Stanhope.
"Coward is the most misused word in this society. It's just a big bailout word when you have nothing else to say. John Walsh. "America's most wanted." Right? Every week it's like; "If you see this man, call this 800-number and get this cowardly murderer off the street once and for all!" And you're like; "Coward?" Well, there's words that would fit. "Wack job." "Sociopath." "Dick." If you just want to be simple. But "Coward?" This guy is driving around with body parts in his car for god sake! I get nervous just driving around with expired plates, much less chunks of little kids in his trunk. I'd say it takes a little ice in the veins for that project."
Well, anyway, moving on with just two more examples. These two relating more to street language and culture, where specificity is even less a prerequisite and where confusion and needless mangling of the language is far more rampant.
To start, lets go to two dictionary web sites and type in the definition for the word "Tool."
At Dictionary.com we get this:
1. an implement, especially one held in the hand, as a hammer, saw, or file, for performing or facilitating mechanical operations.
2. any instrument of manual operation.
3. the cutting or machining part of a lathe, planer, drill, or similar machine.
But at UrbanDictionary.com we get this:
January 13, 2005 Urban Word of the Day:
One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used. A fool. A cretin. Characterized by low intelligence and/or self-steem.
"That tool dosen't even know she's just using him."
... Did I fall asleep for five or six years?
But in truth, it's not the corruption of what should be a perfectly serviceable word that irks me. What does is how many disparate definitions I've heard for this new, popular term.
From what little I've been able to gleam, a "Tool" can mean someone easily to manipulate or simply someone so malleable they fall into any social trend with absurd ease, someone unintentionally inept with social situations, someone sycophantic in the face of authority figures, someone lacking mental power, a "poser," one who can easily be taken advantage of, one lacking in genuine sincerity.
All of these definitions, while not necessarily mutually exclusive, do not, in my mind, seem to be common threads tied to one particular social, intellectual or economic strata.
To my mind "tool" is simply a general condemnation with an interchangeable meaning. And it's precisely the vagary of this new, popular term that vexes me so.
But perhaps, to me at least, the most misused word I've heard in my tenure on this planet, the one that truly gets under my skin with the needlessly protean nature and needless variants.
Lets see what the actual dictionary has to say about this one.
1. a person, team, nation, etc., that loses: The visiting team was the loser in the series.
a. a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor or, especially, a felony: a two-time loser.
b. a person who has failed at a particular activity: a loser at marriage.
c. someone or something that is marked by consistently or thoroughly bad quality, performance, etc.: Don't bother to see that film, it's a real loser.
3. Slang . a misfit, especially someone who has never or seldom been successful at a job, personal relationship, etc.
The more discerning among you will see that the misuse of this word has become so widespread that it's dictionary entry is contradictory.
At the beginning we have the actual, original definition of loser, which I believe is an unnecessary word to begin with, at least in it's negative connotation. And I shall explain why.
If we define a "loser" simply as someone with a long string of ill-fortune tied to their name, a great many surprising people fit the category.
Take this one, specific life history of a man who;
1831 - Lost his job
1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
1833 - Failed in business
1835 - Sweetheart died
1836 - Had nervous breakdown
1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
1848 - Lost re-nomination after winning race for U.S. congress
1849 - Rejected for land officer position
1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
And then finally, in 1860 - Elected President.
Now, up until the year 1860, you would have called this man a "loser." And you would have been technically correct.
But if you were half-awake in any of your grade school history classes, you know who I'm talking about and how his legacy hardly reflects that of a loser.
So I believe it is unjustified to have a negative connotation attached to the word when one can assert, correctly;
Abraham Lincoln: loser.
Of course, the correct use of words means little to people who are out to launch stinging inditement and use the power of their diction to inflict injury.
When one is hellbent on causing harm at any cost, reality and correct use of language is often nothing in the face of such savage conviction.
To use another case study, take the man who helped organize the return of 120,000 Americans from Europe at the beginning of World War l, then spent two years working 14-hour days from London, administering the distribution of over two and one-half million tons of food to nine million war victims, was appointed head of the U.S. Food Administration by President Woodrow Wilson, provided aid to the defeated German nation after the war, as well as relief to famine-stricken Bolshevik-controlled areas of Russia in 1921, despite the opposition of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and other Republicans.
Now, by ANY definition, the providing of comfort and basic biological necessaries to so many on such a vast scale during a time of unrelenting crucible would earn one a spot among the great humanitarians of the 20th century.
But in the collective, public consciousness, being Commander in Chief at the time of the most drastic economic depression of the 20th century means that I will receive no challenges when I make the unjustified blanket statement;
Herbert Hoover: loser.
And lastly, lets look at an example through the eyes of the slang use of "loser."
"a misfit, especially someone who has never or seldom been successful at a job, personal relationship, etc."
Well, take the case of a native of Seattle Washington.
A misfit plagued with the pain his parents divorce caused him as a child, as well as being a physical outcast from a lifelong struggle with intense physical pain due to chronic bronchitis and an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition.
Technically having only one, lasting professional success could qualify as "seldom being successful at a job." And having been haunted by psychological trauma and fear of his own mortality, made all the more stark by his persistent health problems, attempted suicide several times before taking his own life on April 8, 1994.
Yes, by the very definition given to it by street hipsters, one could say with cold, precise accuracy;
Kurt Cobain: loser.
This is what infuriates me about using the word "loser" as an invective. It can conceivably be used to describe anyone at some point in their life.
As human beings, we are flawed creatures. We are naturally imperfect. And each and all of us have experienced losses at some point in our lives.
So if each and all of us are losers, and the word itself can cary any number of meanings in any number of situations, why on earth is the word considered among the epitome of insults?
If a word can mean anything,
Now, please don't misconstrue my meaning here.
I'm not trying to instill my own version of Orwellian "Newspeak" and cut out superlative words in the english language.
On the contrary.
A wide and expansive reservoir of a vocabulary to draw from makes for a greater potential breadth of expression and can help one forge one's mind into a weapon with the potential destructive prowess to level empires and spread love and peace across the world.
My point is simply that an over-abundance of ignorance when it comes to language very quickly leads to a lack of specificity when it comes to conveying ideas, a dismal prospect if one wishes to exercise one's power of free speech (if said option is available) to it's fullest potential.
So, yeah. Ranting and rambling spurred by frustration one brings upon oneself might not be terribly coherent, but hopefully the passion behind the words expresses the meaning the frazzled, inflamed mind is far too disheveled to express in a straightforward manner.
I suppose that's all I have to say..
Oh yeah. And one more thing.
My dear, dear friend
just launched her very own website.
I'd dearly appreciate it if you checked it out. [link]
Good night everybody!
"Language is the core property that defines human beings."