Words Can Never Harm You?

October 21, 2021 Updated: October 21, 2021


There are only two ways to fight for liberty. One of them is physically. But our friends on the socialist left have striven mightily to obviate that. Their leaders are adamant that gun control be inaugurated as widely as possible, even though they surround themselves with armed guards. Such weapons, evidently are for them only, not for the rest of us, for the little people. However, people in flyover country, especially, have vociferously resisted that incursion.

The second way to achieve freedom is with words. Our masters have attempted, very successfully so, to control this avenue as well. George Orwell was correct when he wrote in his book “1984”: “The whole aim of Newspeak,” explains Syme, a government linguist, “is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” Credit must be given where it’s due: In the view of Saul Alinsky, no libertarian, “He who controls the language controls the masses.”

The totalitarian left has been, if anything, even more successful in the second domain. They have managed to cram down our throats that they are “liberal” and then, after they besmirched that word, “progressive.” Yes, they are indeed “liberal”—with other people’s money; and they are “progressing” us in the direction of the economy of the old USSR. These folks have made it all but impossible for decent people to use the word “Oriental” even though its plain meaning is “East.” Will “Occidental” or “West” be next on the chopping block? The use of the word “niggardly” (translation: stingy, not generous; this has nothing whatsoever to do with any ethnic group) is also fraught with danger.

It’s perhaps in the arena of gender that these people have had the most success in ruining our language. “Mrs.” and “Miss” may no longer be mentioned in polite society. Evidently, a females’ marital status is no longer of any moment. I was tempted to use “woman’s marital status” in the previous sentence, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has recently decreed that word is now off limits. It rendered a Ruth Bader Ginsberg quote as follows: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life.” I must protest. Just take a peek at the last syllable of that word, person. Surely, “perdaughter’s life” would be more politically correct. As for “female,” I find its last syllable “offensive.” I am nothing if not “woke.” Yes, male marital status is also of interest, but we used to be able to employ “Mr.” and “Master” to make that distinction. The latter may no longer be used, due to historical contexts. Presumably, “master’s degrees” and chess masters and grandmasters will soon be disallowed. Hey, wait-a-sec. Arnold Schwarzenegger did get pregnant in the 1994 movie “Junior.” Perhaps the ACLU is onto something after all!

The distinction between singular and plural are soon to be evicted from our speech and writing. A mainstream periodical had this to say: “A cyclist knows how much they have in the tank.” Evidently, “A cyclist knows how much he has in the tank” was improper, and “A cyclist knows how much he or she has in the tank” was deemed too awkward.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of papering over the difference between man and woman (sorry, ACLU, I just couldn’t help myself). There are no longer stewardesses and stewards; they have been replaced by “flight attendants.” Waiters and waitresses, too, have been banished. “Servers” now bring us our food in restaurants. Firemen have bitten the dust; we now have “firefighters.” Why? Previously, the test for this job was being able to carry 200-pound people up or down a ladder. Very few of those on the distaff side were able to accomplish anything of that order; hence, the requirements were reduced, so as to accommodate them. Nor are there, anymore, “actors” and “actresses”; only the former survive. This is more than passing curious, though. Imagine if “men” and “women” were replaced by only the former. Oh, the hue and cry about sexism.

Some of this is just plain silly. But there’s danger afoot. The sky is indeed falling. If supporters of liberty can’t articulate their message, if they’re forced to speak in a tongue not of their own choosing, the case for freedom will be just that more difficult to make.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Walter Block
Walter E. Block is the chair in economics at Loyola University in New Orleans. He is also an adjunct scholar at the Mises Institute and the Hoover Institute.