The Ideas Behind the Words

Back in my carefree liberal days, when I thought that "God's in her Heaven, Clinton's in the White House, and all's right with the world," I used to listen to Geoffrey Nunberg, a UC Berkeley linguist, on NPR.  I thought he was wonderful. Nunberg would carefully explain how conservatives were perverting the English language to hide their nefarious goals.  Indeed, he wrote a whole book on the subject.   As far as he was concerned, conservatives had co-opted words such as "patriotism" and "honor," while leaving liberals unjustly smeared with the cheapened word "liberal."  This was entrancing stuff to a word-lover. Thankfully, wisdom comes with age, and I've since realized that Nunberg was wrong.  Conservatives have not engaged in any Nixon-esque subterfuge in order to steal away words, leaving liberals with only the icky, unappealing words. Nunberg forgets that there are actual ideas underlying those words or phrases that deal with abstract notions. ...(Read Full Article)

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