Changing Our Language

I’ve tried to get away from a particular post on Facebook this week that has reappeared almost every day at the top. It is the video interview of Tucker Carlson with a young woman, I’m sorry, young person who was advocating that we stop using any word containing the letters m-a-n because it offends her. She spoke with a cautious seriousness as questions about using the name of the city “M-a-nchester” and finally, calling her a “wom-a-n.” Yes, those words offend too.

Then, just about the time I finally had to listen to that video because it wouldn’t go away on my newsfeed, another story appeared about pronouncing words properly and improperly. Without revealing the word used, because it apparently causes a great deal of classism and racism to discuss it, the suggestion was made that we should know the history of our words and the cultural heritage they might enjoy before choosing our pronunciations. If a word has ever in the history of the human race been pronounced a certain way, no one has the right to suggest there is a “right way” to pronounce it today. Everyone is right as long as they can find someone in history or in some language around the world that uses their pronunciation. You probably didn’t follow that line of thought and I’m sorry I brought it up.


I thought we were finally ready to quit criticizing and nitpicking anything considered politically incorrect. Now the thought police and grammar queens are out there telling us what to think and which words to use again. What in the world is a parent to teach a child these days?


Rather than changing our language, maybe we should work on changing our hearts.


Offense is something that occurs when someone is insensitive to another’s feelings and demands their own way. Interestingly enough, offense is a two-way street. Using a word with the letters m-a-n in it might offend you because you are tired of stereotypes that leave out half of the population like mailm-a-n or policem-a-n. Then someone else who is tired of people walking around being offended at a word used by 99% of the population says, “I don’t care what offends you and I don’t want to hear that talk around me.” Both sides are insensitive in some way and neither side cares anymore.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we cared about one another again? I was taught that someone who is different from me is just different. They aren’t stupid, ugly or inferior. Different is what makes a sunset beautiful; imagine a single-color sky at sunset. Different is what makes the world an interesting place. Different hair color, skin color, facial expressions and yes, different words. The dictionary is for giving the common meanings of words; it shouldn’t be used to beat people over the head or be revised because some think tank on a college campus decides the rest of the country should change their words and spellings. I’ll accept you but you need to accept me, as well. We can appreciate our differences and move on down the road.


Why not teach that to your children? Listen, care and move on down the road.

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.