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The name game

Image: the barrowboy/Creative Commons

Keeping up with the destigmatizing and appropriate vocabulary changes is like playing Scrabble, rearranging the tiles to create new terms.

Since man created societies, there has been the haves and the have nots. The haves have. The have nots do not have. Another word for the have nots is poor.

Elected officials love poor people. They and others love the poor so much, they keep them impoverished, generation after generation.

The other day, I heard a loving local politician refer to the poor as underserved. For the past several years, politicians and word weasels keep changing the vocabulary. They do not do this to erase a stigma on the poor or anyone else. They change words to feel better about themselves for doing nothing. 

We had the poor, poverty, impoverished, disadvantaged, distressed, now underserved.

Underserved is just what it means, the opposite of overserved. Politicians cannot overserve people, now, can they? We cannot have large numbers of overserved people stumbling or driving on the streets.

There was welfare. Now it is called benefits, assistance, and entitlements. Food assistance is called SNAP. SNAP is snappier than food assistance.

Take homelessness, a decades-long major problem in Chicago. Ever since the pandemic, homelessness has increased. There are encampments of all sizes throughout the city. What did our political word weasels do? They came up with the term unhoused to take the stigma off them for doing nothing. What next? Unapartmented? Uncondoed? 

How about the word problem? We no longer have problems. We have issues. No matter the problem, it is merely an issue. Issue sounds warmer and easier to swallow than that harsh word problem. When an issue becomes a problem, they call it a crisis. Crisis is scarier than problem and gives the impression that elected officials are doing something when they do nothing.

There used to be pollution. Along came global warming. Then it became climate change. Then, climate emergency. Now, we have a climate crisis. What next? Climate apocalypse? Climate Armageddon? Climate rapture? Climate end times?

There were peaceful protests, civil disobedience, and riots. When a peaceful protest turns into a riot, it is now called a peaceful protest with some disruptions. We cannot allow violent protest, so we ignore it.

Equality was replaced with equity because those wily elected officials realized we are only created equal on paper. We no longer treat people as equals. We must treat all people as equitable.

Superintendent of Police David Brown has great word weasels. Every week he has new plans, strategies, deployments, and precision deployments in his failure to curb violent crime in Chicago.

There used to be all kinds of hucksters, con artists, and hawkers selling products and snake oil on television and in magazines. Some were politicians. With the advent of social media, they are called influencers. Some are or become celebrities. They tout everything and anything, raking in bucks or claiming fame on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. There are online courses on how to become an influencer overnight.

For some unknown reason, we put xs on the ends of terms, like Latinx. How come there are no Italianx, Polishx, Irishx, Blackx, or other racex or nationalityx? Are we not an inclusive society?

We used to have sexes. Now, they are genders. The number of genders keeps growing. Soon, gender will replace sex as an activity. We will have gender between the sheets.

Politician is fading out of use. Politicians are called candidates or elected officials. They needed to change the word because politician became associated with corruption, lies, immorality, and other negative connotations. Politicianx sounds better and more inclusive.

We used to have ex-convicts. Then they were called ex-felons and former felons. They are now called formerly incarcerated since many continue being felons after their incarceration.

There were alcoholics and addicts. They are now substance abusers.

Prostitutes, strippers, and pornography performers are now sex workers. Sex worker is more appropriate because they work for a living.

We were a nation of principles. Now, we are a nation of values or morals, though we practice neither. By the way, we never practiced principles.

Religion is falling out of use. People of faith or the faithful are the new terms. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious buildings are called places of worship. One word became a mouthful.

The vocabulary changes come so fast it is hard to keep up. It intensifies my anti-social tendencies. I no longer know what proper terms to use, so I no longer talk to people in fear of making a major faux pas.

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