Look: At some point, everybody misuses certain words.
It’s just a fact of life. At some point today, you’re going to be having a conversation with someone, and they’re going to say “literally” when they mean the polar opposite of “literally,” or “over” when they mean “more than,” or “chromatophore” when they mean “three-ring binder,” or whatever. Sure, it can be irritating, particularly if you’re obsessed with exactitude, or just someone with a respect for the language.
Usually, though, it’s not really that big a deal, because usually, you know what the person misusing the word is trying to say.
Politicians, though, are another story. When a politician misuses certain words, the results can be provocative or even downright disastrous. Generally not for the politician in question, but more often for the people who misunderstand what the politician intends.
Were I a more cynical person, I might suspect that politicians occasionally attempt to redefine certain words to fit and color their respective agendas. Luckily, I’m not; I just think that our duly elected representatives sometimes throw out a 50-cent word without looking it up, that’s all.
So, in the interest of education, clarity and avoiding any unpleasant miscommunications, let’s take a look at some of the terms most often misused by politicians — and exactly what they mean.
Terrorist. (noun) One who uses violence to instill and exploit fear within a populace.
It’s the subtle nuances that make all the difference. A terrorist is not, for example, a non-violent protester, nor a Texas state senator voicing what she believes to be the desires of her constituents. Speaking of which …
Constituent. (noun) A person who authorizes another to act on his or her behalf.
The disconnect seems to be when the words “person” and “authorizes” are somehow confused with or replaced by “corporation” and “pays.”
Entitlement. (noun) A right or claim given, when furnished with grounds for giving.
When most politicians speak of “entitlements,” they’re referring to “self-entitlements.” The word itself isn’t meant to be pejorative; entitlements, such as Social Security benefits, are implicitly, legitimately earned. As opposed to, say, a six-figure consulting gig that requires two 20-minute phone calls per week.
Fascist. (noun) According to dictionary.com, a fascist is one who believes in “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”
Come on, liberals. Quit taking the word completely out of context. It clearly says “a dictator.” As in one. Just one. Totally not the same thing.
Bicameral. (adj.) You don’t hear this one as often as some of these others, and with good reason — its original meaning seems to have been lost to history. Through diligent research, however, I am led to believe it either means “balanced equally between two camels,” or has something to do with taking video on your smartphone.
And, of course, there’s the most misused word in all of political pontification: Liberty. Which, as everyone should know, actually means “permission granted to a sailor to go ashore.”
So, unless our elected officials are talking about shore leave instead of freedom, they need to cut that shit out.
Read more Harrell at lifeasweblowit.com or twitter.com/harrellscott.
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