That’s the Rub
In Act 2 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet the beleaguered prince is alone onstage reading. His tutor, Polonius, enters and they have this exchange:
Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Polonius: I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
“Words, words, words.” Later on in the play, in the midst of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy he says, “Aye, that is the rub.” Indeed, that is the rub. Words -- words that have been stolen from us to make any kind of intelligent discussion impossible. Not only has the Left tainted the words necessary to a free society, but we find ourselves adrift, trying in vain to find words to replace those lost.
What are we to call terrorists if decent middle-class parents at school board meetings are also terrorists? How do we talk about elections if the outcomes of such traditions are bought and paid for long in advance? If Anthony Fauci is an “expert,” then what do we call people who really know what they are doing?
It is normal for words to morph into new shapes and fill new voids -- the word “virus” now has both disease and computer applications -- no harm in that. Language is always fluid when it’s left alone to meet our language needs. But another, more sinister force is at work here. Our language is being purposely perverted to make not only discussion difficult, but to make thought itself impossible.
How do we deal with those who shout democracy, but really want communism? The word “democracy” has been so besmirched by dictators all over the globe that it’s basically useless anyway, but it has become a thoughtless drumbeat used to rally the troops of the Left. Self-government is way too important a concept to be associated with such worn and useless language, but here we are.
The words that are being beaten to death are seriously important words. “Truth” and “lie” are good examples. The Left will say anything, even when we know, and they know we know, that they are lying. “Truth” has become nothing more than ice cream -- we all get our own favorite flavor and whether or not our flavor bears any connection at all to reality has ceased to matter. If that’s not bad enough, leftists will then turn around and call us the liars. I trust no one who denies absolute truth (as if there is any other kind), and I am sure that a society based on lies cannot survive because trust, which is based on truth, is the lubricant that keeps the whole machine turning.
The word “science” has also taken a thrashing. It used to connote knowledge (i.e. “truth”), integrity, painstaking accuracy. We used to equate “science” with reliability and honesty, with fact. If COVID taught us anything, it has wised us up to the duplicity of those who make their billions by inventing diseases and then, presto-change-o, also selling the vaccine. Now we understand the connection between big pharma and the government -- an unholy alliance if there ever was one. There was a time when a man in a white lab coat was the symbol of care and concern and validity. But now we equate those coats with Anthony Fauci or Bill Nye the “Science” Guy (who merely has a bachelor’s degree in engineering.) We have trusted where we shouldn’t have and the consequences are becoming more horrible every day. We no longer trust our doctors, and we certainly don’t trust the pharmaceutical industry, nor the media people who follow their lead.
We are accused of believing in “conspiracy theories” even after the “theories” are demonstrable fact. So, what are we to call our discoveries? How do we think about and discuss the spider-web of interconnections amongst federal agencies, courts, corporations, and law enforcement? When we notice the tangle and follow the money and the power, we are aghast, but the media -- whose job used to be to speak truth to power -- just sweep the scandals under the carpet and point accusatory fingers at those of us crying, “Foul!”
Can we call these webs “treason,” or is that word already so tainted that it also can no longer carry meaning? Does anyone today have the courage to actually, legally use that term and apply the legal consequences? Apparently not.
In some cases, this word-theft takes in whole groups of words, rubbing them against the rocks of stupidity until they are threadbare. What does “woman” mean anymore? Any guesses? That designation no longer refers to people equipped with ovaries and mammary glands. It has no meaning in athletics. No meaning in the home, where mothers are expected to do all the motherly things while working also outside the home. It no longer means feminine beauty since men now win the beauty contests.
With the loss of that concept goes the word “child.” Children used to be our pride and joy, the people we cared most about and worked the hardest for. They were the people we protected with all our hearts. The concept of childhood, however, is so stained that we should be eternally ashamed. Our children are now sex objects. The difference between childhood and adulthood has been rubbed away by demonically dressed drag queens in the public libraries (once the home of mankind’s best thoughts). We have ruined any innocence they had, dressing them as little tarts, urging them to change genders (as if that were even possible), exposing them to sexually explicit literature in their own schools, and welcoming pedophiles, who are merely “minor-attracted” individuals, into decent society.
Words like “father” and “man” have also been clobbered. “Toxic masculinity” is a term invented to blame men for who they really are, and for what society really needs them to be. We have erased men from our families, from our workplaces, and from our institutions. While we deny women any true, untrammeled place in society, we are also doing the same to our men.
Even our pronouns are under attack. “They,” “them,” and “their” came into our language over a thousand years ago with the second Germanic Invasion, which brought the languages spoken by the Danes and Vikings into contact with Anglo-Saxon England. I can’t imagine a language without them, but we may have to give them up if this they-them woke thing keeps going. Just the idea that parts of speech can be commandeered for personal misuse is appalling.
The list of damaged verbiage is long, but let’s look at just one more -- “justice,” one of the most important words in any society, one we should take seriously. We’ve taken it so seriously that we have a federal agency just to see to it that justice is done. We have police and courts and lawyers dedicated to such a concept, but one look at the behavior of the Department of Justice lately and what we find is horrifying. From the jailing of the J6 protestors to the pending indictment of a recent president on make-believe charges we see the opposite of “justice.” That department is making a mockery of all we hold dear.
We are being swept away by a current of pseudo-words, words that undermine all meaning, destroy trust and function, and construct a huge, blubbering lie. Words like “woke,” “recession,” “assault weapon,” “climate change” fill our useless dialogue. And I hear the words “Jesus Christ” far more often spit out as an expletive than spoken in reverence and awe.
Words, words, words -- they are the rub. We must defend our language, refuse to recognize as valid those terms the left has either made up or mangled purposely to confuse the issues. Logic and thought rely on words, so we can’t afford to lose them.
Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College https://pacificbible.edu in southern Oregon. She teaches writing, logic, and literature. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.