Dictionaries as Propaganda Tools

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Dictionaries as Propaganda Tools

I thought dic­tio­nar­ies were apo­lit­i­cal. Unfor­tu­nately, some have assumed a decid­edly left­ist tilt that I failed to real­ize until recently.

In a pub­lic rela­tions gam­bit, sev­eral dic­tio­nar­ies recently announced their “Words of the Year.”

Since I make my liv­ing as a writer and writ­ing teacher, I, like many oth­ers, see words as a crit­i­cal part of our democ­racy. The proper use of words can be enlight­en­ing; the mis­use of them can be extremely dam­ag­ing. Some­times words can be par­tic­u­larly toxic.

In a year when Trump­ism, fake news, and myr­iad con­ser­v­a­tive terms held sway through­out the world, I am try­ing not to sound con­spir­a­to­r­ial. But the dic­tio­nar­ies chose some lib­eral words to pro­claim as the words of 2017. Merriam-​Webster chose “fem­i­nism.” Dic​tio​nary​.com went with “com­plicit,” while the Cam­bridge Dic­tio­nary anointed “pop­ulism.” These choices seem trou­bling, but Oxford Dic­tio­nar­ies went with some­thing else worse: “youthquake.”

I am happy to say I have never heard some­one use youthquake, which is defined as a “sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural, polit­i­cal, or social change aris­ing from the actions or influ­ence of young people.”

For­mer Vogue edi­tor Diana Vree­land appar­ently coined “youthquake” in the 1960s to describe the youth cul­ture of Lon­don back then. The word fell out of favor until this year when its use increased dra­mat­i­cally, accord­ing to an analy­sis of the Oxford Eng­lish Cor­pus, which col­lects roughly 150 mil­lion words of spo­ken and writ­ten Eng­lish from var­i­ous sources.

The use of the word surged first in cov­er­age of the British par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in June before spread­ing to polit­i­cal com­men­tary to the United States and elsewhere.

Youthquake tri­umphed over a polit­i­cally left­ist list that included “Antifa,” “broflake,” “kom­pro­mat,” “white fragility,” and “Milk­shake Duck.”

Broflake is an attack against con­ser­v­a­tives who use snowflake to describe leftists.

Kom­pro­mat is based on a Russ­ian word, which means com­pro­mis­ing infor­ma­tion col­lected for use in black­mail­ing, dis­cred­it­ing, or manip­u­lat­ing some­one, typ­i­cally for polit­i­cal purposes.

Accord­ing to Oxford, kom­pro­mat has been used in Eng­lish since about 1990. Until recently, it was entirely unfa­mil­iar to most Eng­lish speak­ers. That all changed when the word arose in con­nec­tion with an error-​ridden file about Pres­i­dent Trump.

I am still not cer­tain what Milk­shake Duck means despite some research. Here is DaTimes: https://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2017​/​06​/​27​/​a​r​t​s​/​m​i​l​k​s​h​a​k​e​-​d​u​c​k​-​m​e​m​e​.html

I’d like to sug­gest a word for next year. Well, actu­ally two: post turtle.

A post tur­tle, which is a syn­onym for a politi­cian, is when you see a tur­tle sit­ting on top of a fence post. You know he didn’t get up there by him­self. He doesn’t belong up there. He doesn’t know what to do up there. He’s ele­vated beyond his abil­ity to func­tion. And you won­der what kind of dum­b­ass put him up there to begin with.

Words count. When basic research tools like dic­tio­nar­ies become polit­i­cally slanted, it pro­vides a hid­den ide­o­log­i­cal train­ing ground for the left.

That’s why it is fas­ci­nat­ing how the left has gone bal­lis­tic about the Trump administration’s deci­sion to elim­i­nate cer­tain words from bud­get doc­u­ments of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention.

These words include “vul­ner­a­ble,” “enti­tle­ment,” “diver­sity,” “trans­gen­der,” and “fetus.”

Trump may not have won the bat­tle of the dic­tio­nar­ies, but the elim­i­na­tion of these polit­i­cally packed words with more neu­tral ones is far more important.

I thought dictionaries were apolitical. Unfortunately, some have assumed a decidedly leftist tilt that I failed to realize until recently.

In a public relations gambit, several dictionaries recently announced their “Words of the Year.”

Since I make my living as a writer and writing teacher, I, like many others, see words as a critical part of our democracy. The proper use of words can be enlightening; the misuse of them can be extremely damaging. Sometimes words can be particularly toxic.

In a year when Trumpism, fake news, and myriad conservative terms held sway throughout the world, I am trying not to sound conspiratorial. But the dictionaries chose some liberal words to proclaim as the words of 2017. Merriam-Webster chose “feminism.” Dictionary.com went with “complicit,” while the Cambridge Dictionary anointed “populism.” These choices seem troubling, but Oxford Dictionaries went with something else worse: “youthquake.”

I am happy to say I have never heard someone use youthquake, which is defined as a “significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.”

Former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland apparently coined “youthquake” in the 1960s to describe the youth culture of London back then. The word fell out of favor until this year when its use increased dramatically, according to an analysis of the Oxford English Corpus, which collects roughly 150 million words of spoken and written English from various sources.

The use of the word surged first in coverage of the British parliamentary elections in June before spreading to political commentary to the United States and elsewhere.

Youthquake triumphed over a politically leftist list that included “Antifa,” “broflake,” “kompromat,” “white fragility,” and “Milkshake Duck.”

Broflake is an attack against conservatives who use snowflake to describe leftists.

Kompromat is based on a Russian word, which means compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes.

According to Oxford, kompromat has been used in English since about 1990. Until recently, it was entirely unfamiliar to most English speakers. That all changed when the word arose in connection with an error-ridden file about President Trump.

I am still not certain what Milkshake Duck means despite some research. Here is DaTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/arts/milkshake-duck-meme.html

I’d like to suggest a word for next year. Well, actually two: post turtle.

A post turtle, which is a synonym for a politician, is when you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong up there. He doesn’t know what to do up there. He’s elevated beyond his ability to function. And you wonder what kind of dumbass put him up there to begin with.

Words count. When basic research tools like dictionaries become politically slanted, it provides a hidden ideological training ground for the left.

That’s why it is fascinating how the left has gone ballistic about the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate certain words from budget documents of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These words include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus.”

Trump may not have won the battle of the dictionaries, but the elimination of these politically packed words with more neutral ones is far more important.