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Words have definitions.
Over time and use sometimes those definitions change. Sometimes they get twisted, or overused, or misapplied, and the “new” definition sticks. In our modern culture of soundbites and buzzwords and trying to win arguments in 140 characters, this phenomenon has become rampant. Words that spark fear or disgust or some other emotional reaction are particularly subject to being redefined to suit the motives of the user.
Take, for example, the word liberal. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the following in her book “Tomorrow Is Now,” published in 1963:
“Long ago, there was a noble word, liberal, which derives from the word free. Now a strange thing happened to that word. A man named Hitler made it a term of abuse, a matter of suspicion, because those who were not with him were against him, and liberals had no use for Hitler. And then another man named McCarthy cast the same opprobrium on the word … We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us.” — Eleanor Roosevelt.
The word “conservative” has variable definitions depending on where and when you live. In the waning days of the Soviet Union, those who wanted to maintain the Communist system were referred to as “conservatives,” because they wanted to “conserve” the status quo.
In England, “elitists” are associated with those who are considered politically conservative. In America, “elitist” is most often connected to those who are politically liberal. The definition changes depending on location and time and culture.
By NIKI TURNER – firstname.lastname@example.org