"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Defend Marriage, Defend the Language, Defend Freedom
Earlier this week a student asked me what the word 'morp' meant (it's a traditional annual dance at our school). Since it's 'prom' spelled backwards, the traditional dating ritual is also reversed. The girls ask the guys to the dance and typically pay for dinner. I doubt this tradition is unique to our school, although other schools may not refer to it as morp. I also doubt the addition of morp to the English language is imminent. Surely the field of etymology is plenty busy keeping up with technological terminology wrought by the internet age. If that's not enough, there's always politics.
Language corruption is a given so long as politicians don't have their mouths sewn shut, eyes gouged out, and hands cut off. As long as government continues to exist, it will do more than steal, enslave, and murder. It will likewise obfuscate its criminal endeavors through the misapplication of words and phrases, using context as a smokescreen, rather than as clarification.
George the Elder reminded us that 'read my lips,' a phrase suggesting unequivocal clarity, really means the exact opposite of what is being said. Thanks to George Stephanopolous and the Clinton administration, more affluent Americans can be comforted that they did not pay higher taxes in the '90s; they made 'increased contributions' to the public welfare.
All that seems trivial since Sheriff George rode into Washington. Pretty soon, the term 'Orwellian' will become obsolete, to be replaced with 'Bushian,' and rightly so. The once hyperbolic images and terminology associated with Orwell's 1984 that have since become a part of our political, economic, and social discourse will likely be supplanted with the very real and ever-expanding doublespeak of the Bush administration.
As the president and his minions scramble for legitimacy and relevancy in the waning days of this first, and possibly, last term, the linguistic proclivities of Americans might be forced down the Memory Hole. The following is a sampling of additions and/or changes that could easily be made to the English language since George the Younger took office:
Liberation. The process of freeing a people from a tyrant (see below) through the use of massive aerial bombardment, sea-launched guided missiles, tens of thousands of heavily-armed troops and armored vehicles, all to be followed by an indeterminate period of military occupation.
Tyrant. Any foreign leader, formerly on the U. S. government payroll, who no longer kowtows to the demands of his former employer.
Free elections. A farcical electoral process, not unlike those held in the United States every few years, in which a liberated people (see above) are permitted to vote for their leaders, provided the outcome conforms to the liking of the occupying power.
Homeland security. Systematic diminution of civil liberties shielded in legalese ultimately designed to safeguard government buildings, property, employees, and especially, elected officials.
Hero/patriot. Any person who wears a uniform and carries a gun in the service of government (firemen and postal workers excepted).
Terrorist. We could probably trace this one back to the Reagan administration. Regardless, it would still mean any person or group that uses terror, intimidation, explosives, mass murder, and torture to achieve their ends. Note: Although terrorists' methods are also employed by governments, only Axis of Evil governments are terrorist-oriented. Coalition of the Willing governments, when they use the same tactics, act in self defense; or, to promote democracy in parts of the world with no democratic tradition.
Evil. Mystical force most likely originating in the Arab-speaking world that works through individuals, radical Islamic groups, and some foreign governments (coincidentally enemies of Israel, located in and around oil rich regions of the world), impelling them to hate, slander, and even attack the United States for unexplained reasons.
Goof. Any intentionally misleading and false reference (formerly a lie) uttered in a nationally televised speech, designed to incite fear and images of imminent nuclear attack among an audience of political idiots (approximately 45% known to be afflicted with this idiocy). When exposed as a complete fabrication, a goof reverts to 'faulty intelligence.'
Defending freedom. Most accurately defined in Terrorism and Tyranny, by James Bovard, who describes the Bush administration defending freedom 'by destroying the power of judges to release people who have been jailed without charges, by refusing to inform Congress of how new federal powers are being used, by giving itself the right to impound millions of people's email, by carrying out thousands of secret searches, and by seeking to lower an iron curtain of secrecy around all federal agencies' (348).
This frightening trend must be stopped. No longer can we allow words and phrases to literally disappear overnight, only to materialize the next day with unrecognizable meanings. It is time for at least one brave soul to step forward and jam the gears of this out-of-control linguistic juggernaut. A new storm brewing on the political horizon offers hope for our disappearing language.
The controversy over gay marriage can quickly be resolved in a way that satisfies the demands of all parties concerned and avoids an unnecessary and polarizing national argument, purposely thrust upon the electoral stage to distract from the abuses and failures of the Bush administration, both foreign and domestic. Furthermore, as a colleague of mine pointed out, this issue could be nothing more than a trap to bait Democrats into defending a suicidal moral issue, with no political significance to the policies of the last three years. Exactly the fight Bush's evangelical base would relish to draw moderate and remaining conservative Republicans, disaffected by Bush's statist rule, into the fray.
But we need not be drawn to battle over this issue, because at heart, it is not a moral issue. It is a language issue, and that is how we should look to resolve this growing crisis. My sense of civic duty requires that I offer a solution, hopefully implemented in the event that no etymologist steps forward and falls on a sword in defense of the English language.
The meaning of marriage has been long established and must remain so. Sorry all you gays and lesbians, but our language preservation right now is more crucial to what little remains of our freedom than any sense of fairness you think is rightfully yours. It pains me to say this, but I think we have to heed the words of President Bush, who recently said that the nation must prevent 'the meaning of marriage from being changed forever,' as a catalyst for the defense of the entire English language. No more multiple meanings that confound tradition and common sense. We need to designate new terms to recognize political, social, and moral changes, whenever and however they are thrust upon us.
I propose the addition of the term 'egairram' to the English language, to be officially defined as 'the legal union of two people of the same sex.' The meaning of marriage is preserved, as it should be, and gays and lesbians get official recognition for their partnerships, with their own exclusive term to boot. Sorry, but you folks will have to corrupt the political process for the economic and tax benefits that are at the heart of this controversy. My only concern is turning back the corruptive surge against the language.
That process being initiated, we can return existing words to their original meaning and put recent political corruptions in their proper context. Consequently, President Bush would properly be identified as a tyrant, homeland security would be exposed as the blueprint for fascism that it is, and defending freedom would rightly be defined as the ongoing process of kicking government the hell out of every aspect of our lives. Isn't clarity of language a truly liberating experience?