Feminism. What does this word even mean? In a culture where we inflate this meaning out of spite for a certain gender, the word can change on a dime depending on who you’re arguing with or which party feels the most entitled. Racism is another biggie. People use the word a lot in various contexts, but don’t necessarily contemplate its etymology.
The interesting thing about words is that we create them. And when we create them, we determine what they mean.
What I find funny when it comes to debate around these words, is when someone looks them up in the dictionary. Here’s a news flash: the dictionary is not the authority on the meaning of words.
That’s right. The dictionary is NOT the authority on the meaning of words.
Just as we create words and give them meaning, so too do we craft and update our dictionaries. Any definition can be changed or altered if we so wished. Just as “ass” used to be used to describe a type of animal, but is now used in a variety of ways. It’s no longer just used to indicate the body part we sit on. It has now become an adjective and suffix, as we converse about our long-ass ride to the store where the asshat violently lamented about the piece of ass he’d be pounding tonight.
So what’s the real issue that causes us to disagree about what a word means? I’d say it’s a disagreement on social perspective, but that’s not the entire story. First, we’d need to know who it is that determines what words make it into the dictionary and which don’t. Then, we have to understand the process of choosing what goes in. And finally, we have to analyze what kinds of biases are tainting this entire process.
As we’ve seen before, a jury full of white people will have a certain bias when a black man is on trial. A group of men will have a certain bias when writing laws on women’s reproductive rights. So if the group of people in charge of picking and choosing our defined language are not deliberately and intentionally diverse, best believe that there will be bias in the supposed ‘objective authority’ on the English Language. There’s a reason we have a US version and a UK version.
I’d like to do further research into this, but for now I’ll leave this here. What are your thoughts on words? I’d like to hear them, too.