As someone who teaches the importance, values, power and etymology of words, as well as teaching people to think before they speak or write and to analyze the things others say and write, I am having a little difficulty with the recent increase of “engineering “ being done to the language to normalize the use of phrases such as “ reality tv”, “alternate reality”, and most recently, “alternative facts “, just to mention a few.
Language depends on the common denominator of words having the same meaning to everyone engaged in the particular communication process. That means the word black doesn’t mean brown to some of the people engaged in the process and green to the others, that means that black means black.
I teach students to use concrete words when the write or speak in order to communicate successfully as opposed to “abstract” words like nice, which can mean different things to different people. In fact, it has been my experience that when people use abstract words or phrases, they are attempting to intentionally obfuscate the point being made, that they have no desire to communicate, that, in fact, they are actually trying to do the exact opposite – to exclude, disenfranchise, to ostracize.
When I speak with young people who tell me they want to go to college , but they’re not your big on reading and writing essays, I tell them when you say you want to go to college you need to understand you are actually saying, “I want to do a lot of work.”
Analogously, when you want to be the president of the United States, ostensibly the leader of the free world, understand that you are asking to be scrutinized and put under a microscope.
When you repeatedly say you’re the smartest guy in the room and you know more than anybody else, and everyone who came before you was stupid or incompetent, you really can’t ask for “slack” or “a little time to get things up and running”’ you can’t ask people to “give you a chance because you just got started”, or because you don’t have experience in this field.
Growing up, we were told, “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it”, and “Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach.” Both statements admonished us to be careful about what we said and not to put ourselves in situations where we wrote a check with our mouths that our butts couldn’t cash. If I told you I could beat Lebron James or Stephen Curry one on one, but when we played, they were beating me like a drum, I couldn’t say, “Yeah, they are beating me, but they’re great NBA players, they’re pros.” I can’t use that as my excuse or my defense since I was the one who called them out, I was the one who said I was better. I can’t ask people to “Give me a break because I am not a pro”, or “ To cut me a little slack”. I was the person who made the statement, the person who “asked for something and got what I asked for.” I can’t now ask people not to scrutinize the results of my contest, not to criticize me, evaluate me or even disparage me.