Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Language for Conservatives to Avoid

“Progressives” vs. “Liberals

Liberals prefer to refer to themselves as “Progressives,” as if to imply that while they are in favor of progress, conservatives are against it. By progress, however, they do not necessarily mean improvement, but sometimes mean any kind of change, regardless of whether that change represents reform, while they sometimes oppose changes that conservatives support which do represent reform. While conservatives favor conserving that which is good, they also favor reform that causes progress, whereas liberals are for radical changes (e.g. statism), regardless of whether such a change represents an improvement over what it replaces. Gradually over the decades, liberals have become relatively conservative and anti-progressive by supporting the welfare state or public education, for example, while resisting any significant reforms. Although the words liberal and conservative are not accurate, they are less misleading than progressive and anti-progressive. Furthermore, conservatives ought not to oblige liberals by using the left’s name for itself of choice.

“Gaming” vs. “Gambling”

Those who support the legalization of gambling refer to it euphemistically as “gaming.” At first, gaming was a shibboleth for supporters, but they have succeeded in incorporating the word into legislation and public discourse to such a degree that often those who favor more restrictions and regulations on gambling or even those who oppose it altogether have been using the word, as well. However, gaming is less accurate than gambling. Gaming refers to hunting (the prey is referred to as “game”), but also can mean the playing of any game, not necessarily for money, but for entertainment. It is not the playing of these games, but the betting on them, that causes concerns. Therefore, “gaming” is not the issue, but “gambling.”

“Resignations/Vacancies” for Congressional Retirements

A member of the United States Congress, or, indeed any public officeholder, who chooses not to seek reelection, but continues to hold his office until the expiration of the term, is properly said “to retire,” not “to resign” from office. A public announcement of such a choice creates not a “vacancy” in the office but only an “open seat” for the congressional election. Both errors have been committed in the media, which increases confusion.

“Lame Duck” for Officeholders Who Have Not Been Defeated for Reelection

A lame duck is a public officeholder who has been defeated for reelection, but who is continuing in office until the expiration of the term. He is said to be “lame” because of his loss of political legitimacy, even though he retains his legal powers until he completes his term of office. Lame duck has been increasingly expanded to the point that it has come to mean the opposite of what it was intended. At first, the term was expanded to refer to elected officials continuing to serve in office after the election, but before their successors take office upon the expiration of the term, including officeholders who were reelected to that term but chose not to seek reelection or who were term limited. Gradually, lame duck has been expanded even further to refer to any public officeholder during his final term, or at least to the final two years of a president’s term, instead of referring to such an officeholder as an “outgoing” official. Thus, instead of referring only to defeated officeholders, lame duck is now being used to refer even to reelected officeholders – the opposite of its meaning. Liberals called former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush “lame ducks” in order to delegitmatize them during their second terms, for example, even though they were never lame ducks because they were both reelected. Thus, as soon as a term-limited president wins a popular mandate for continuing his policies into a second term, he is being deligitimatized, as if the results of the election are being dismissed.

Lame duck has been misused to such a degree that these expanded uses of it appear in modern dictionaries. Defenders of non-standard usages of words cite dictionaries as authoritative legitimacy for the non-standard usage. However, lexicographers must include non-standard words and usages. The inclusion of such words and usages does not make them standard. The first usage listed, like the first pronunciation, is the preferred one. It is especially important for conservatives to defend the language against liberals who change the meaning of words in order for activist liberal judges to change the meaning of the written law by ignoring the principal of original intent instead of winning the public discourse and elections. No one has a right to change the language for such a purpose. Additionally, the more clarity in language there is, the easier it is to communicate and the better informed the people will be.

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