Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The debasement of language

Tribune Media Services, which provides syndicated columns for The Nugget’s Page 2 opinion section, recently sent out a “Sensitive Language Advisory.” It read thus:

“In Joel Brinkley’s American Voices column for release 4/3/2012 (‘China’s social ‘harmony’ more fragile than it appears’), the word ‘dyke’ appears in the first and eighth paragraphs. While the word is correctly used in its traditional sense, editors may want to use the spelling ‘dike’ to avoid any consternation among readers.”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud! The correct use of a word might cause “consternation” because it can mean something else in a different context? What, are we 12? Scratch that. My 12-year-old is more mature than that.

The language police; a shrinking population of readers; the dumbing down of discourse (if it can’t be said in 140 characters, does it, like, even matter?) — all signs of the creeping debasement of language. For a guy who makes his living and his art out of stringing words together with as much craft as I can muster, it’s more than a little discouraging.

Last week, a friend who is also a writer told me that he suddenly feels like “a man from another age.” No kidding. Nothing left to do but try to stem the tide. I feel like the little Dutch boy…

No! Don’t go there! It’ll cause consternation!

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. I have several pairs of side-cutting pliers, most of them made in China. I have always referred to them as dykes. Could this be where the confusion originated? Oh, and said reference does not cause any consternation among my fishing buddies or my friends in the trades.

  2. I am offended by the very concept of side-cutting pliers! Pliers aren't designed by the Creator to cut! Pliers are meant to grab, and they grab straight! If you are going to cut something, use scissors! Or cutters! Only a closet socialist would use something that cuts from the side and made in China!

  3. While Nero fiddled Rome merrily burned...

  4. Very recently a new high school in Draper, Utah, which is set to open next year, announced it had chosen the name of its teams, the Chargers.
    Chargers wasn't the most popular choice among the kids who chose the name. Cougars won out with 23 percent of the votes.
    The Cougar name was rejected by the school board for fear that it might be offensive to middle aged women.
    Unbeknownst to me, and perhaps you, a Cougar is now slang for middle aged women who pursue or otherwise date younger men.
    If we're not careful, universities could be next. Oregon State, and South Carolina could be in the crosshairs. I hope Washington State University is paying attention.
    In the future, let's hope that no school, anywhere, would be so uncaring as to name a team the Cradle Robbers or Gold Diggers. I fear the outrage would be epic.