The World of Words

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R. Buckminster
Fuller, the great inventor, thinker and visionary, is reputed to
have taken a vow of silence at one point early in his career. He
had suffered the effects of some bad business transactions involving
others and, having lost everything, concluded that the reason for
his losses was that he had not fully understood the meaning of the
words that others had spoken to him. He therefore resolved not to
speak until he thoroughly understood the meanings of the words he
used.

Fuller's silence
apparently lasted for some two years at which time he resumed conversations
but with a particularly distinctive style, to which anyone who has
read his books or was fortunate enough to hear him speak can attest.

Primitive man's
invention of language wrought far more than an enhanced ability
to communicate. It also created a mental world distinct from the
world of reality itself. It is within this world of words that literate
people spend most of their waking moments. Even while experiencing
the world first-hand, while skiing, surfing or mountain climbing
for example, most people continue to translate their experience
into words and to keep up a constant internal dialogue with themselves.
One purpose of meditation is to surmount or transcend this soundtrack,
and experience existence as it really is, without the commentary.

Because the
bombardment of words continually shapes and reshapes our worldview,
clever people long ago realized that if one could assign respectable
words to undesirable things one could affect a change in the public's
perception of the thing in question, thereby making it more acceptable
in the public mind. Thus was born the euphemism.

Government
soon mastered this art. The War Department became the Defense Department.
The Tax Department became the Internal Revenue Service. (Note also
the clever use of the word “service” which implies you are being
given something, rather than having your hard-earned money taken
from you). Unemployment Insurance has become Employment Insurance,
hospitals are "health centers," illegal immigrants are
called “undocumented workers," war is “armed conflict” and
taxes are referred to as "contributions." People have
short memories, and these newly minted terms soon pass into the
public consciousness to stay.

In the public
arena, notable successes in changing the dialogue were achieved
by substituting the term “senior citizens” for old folks, “gay”
for homosexual, “sex worker” or “escort” for prostitute, “open marriage”
for infidelity, “freedom of choice” for abortion, and “I made a
mistake” or “I misspoke” for I lied.

However, despite
these triumphs, as far as I am aware no one has yet undertaken the
task of eliminating, or at least softening crime by replacing the
current terminology with more politically correct descriptions.
In order to get this effort started I hereby submit my alphabetical
list of suggested improvements:

Assault
Preemptive
self-defense

Blackmail
Scandal
suppression

Bootlegging
Private
liquor distribution

Bribery
Positive
result insurance

Burglary
Property
redistribution

Embezzlement
Unpublicized
personal dividend payment

Forgery
Imitative
art

Murder
Involuntary
suicide

Perjury
Faulty
Memory syndrome

Robbery
Property
imbalance correction

Theft
Possession
reduction

By substituting
these new terms for the old, tired ones, we can all do our bit to
help get rid of the last vestiges of sanity in our society.

April
3, 2008

Bill
Trench [send him mail]
is a writer and cogitator who enjoys watching and commenting on
the passing show.

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