Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Words Die and Take On New Meaning

It's just a word - how much weight can it carry? Can a word's meaning change over the years? Like the word, "gay" for instance - it used to connote joy and wild abandon - like in the "Gay '90's." But now, 100 years later, it's meaning has changed entirely.

Or take "bad." Bad used to mean, well, it meant bad. Now it means, "good." Like saying, 'Man, Randy Moss was baddddd in last night's game," when, in fact, he scored 3 touchdowns.

"Christian" is another changing word. Used to be anyone who believed in Christ was happy to be defined as a "Christian." Now, not so much. It's been commandeered by the extremists - and other religions, such as Catholics, are shying away from using it as an identifier because they do not want to be identified with the fanatics who've claimed it as their own. It makes me feel very sorry for the few remaining real "Christians," - those who carry Christ in their heart and soul and practice doing the things He did in their every day life with joy and personal committment but without the fanfare and self-administered pats on the back we're beginning to distance ourselves from.

The more any one group of people use a word to define themselves the more that word becomes the new definition in the minds of those hearing it.

I have a feeling it is going to be so with the word "Patriot." More and more people are narrowing the definition of the word to suit their own personal needs or beliefs. More and more fringe groups, such as The White Patriot Party, the Tea Party, and numerous extremist militia groups are tossing the phrase around or incorporating it into their selling point as if it belonged to no one but them and anyone who disagrees with them or their views are suddenly "unpatriotic."

Given time, overuse and misuse of the word itself and it will become something to avoid for many people. It will have been co-opted by a few to the distaste of the many. People will still love their country but they will be too disgusted by the ever-narrowing "them or us" mentality of those who incessantly use the word for their own gain (Sarah Palin, The Tea Party and the Oath Keepers come to mind) to continue using it in any old and familiar sense of the word.

It is my personal prediction that the definition of the word "patriot" that we grew up with will become obsolete and come to mean something entirely different - probably within our lifetime - maybe within the next decade.

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