You Talkin to Me? You Talkin to Me?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

The Garifuna people of Belize and Guatemala have a very special culture and a very special language.  In fact, the men have a language for speaking to men, and the women have a language for speaking to women. Specifically

One interesting feature of Garifuna is a vocabulary split between terms used only by men and terms used only by women. This does not however affect the entire vocabulary but when it does, the terms used by men generally come from Carib and those used by women come from Arawak.

When Garifuna people speak to each other, they are consciously aware of whom they are speaking with and they know what language is appropriate.

Which brings me to the US and the separate languages used in the US in political discourse.  The right and its media refer to “harsh interrogation” techniques. The left should refer to “torture.”  The right and its media refer to “extraordinary renditions”.  The left should refer to “kidnappings” and “illegal extraditions.”   The right wing refers to “illegal immigrants.”  The left should say “undocumented workers.”  You get the idea.  I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that the traditional media almost always use the right wing language.  The left wing language can be found in some places in Leftblogistan, but even there the right wing language frequently infiltrates the discussion.

So I have made a late 2007 early 2008 resolution.  When discussing the political issues surrounding the abridgment of the US Constitution and US policy, I am no longer going to use any of the right wing vocabulary.  In fact, I am going to ferret out all right wing language and substitute other, clearer, more precise words in my writing and discourse.

I am convinced that when I drop right wing language it will immediately make it clear that I am no longer indulging in the same incorrect assumptions as those who speak the right wing language.  And my new choice of words will, I hope, cut through all of the pernicious verbal forms our traditional media persist in serving up.  This can only lead to increased clarity and precision. And it can only end the prevalence of that fuzzy code the right wing speaks to us to subvert our own expressions.

Want to join me in this?  I hope so.    


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  1. And let’s take back the country, too.  

  2. I like the fact that your essays are original to DocuD.  Unique content is very important to the success of the site.

    • kj on December 20, 2007 at 23:24

    Language, specific words, are my bread, butter and dessert.

    Language is our great gift and using it in intentional ways is crucial.

    • kj on December 20, 2007 at 23:29

    The right: “harsh interrogation”  *  The left: “torture”

    The right: “extraordinary renditions”  *  The left: “kidnappings” and “illegal extraditions”

    The right: illegal immigrants”  *  The left: “undocumented workers”


  3. add ‘homeland’ to the list of words to be deleted!

    And how about the use of Csar.  Where in hell did that

    come from??

    • pfiore8 on December 21, 2007 at 00:20

    i have been begging for us to restructure our rhetoric and this is the way to begin

    thank you for this essay! and you need to throw up a dog picture in snud’s cat essay…  

  4. Upon completion of a business degree the abuse of the english language became all too clear.  I started out by enclosing some of our newer Orwellian style terms in quotes even though nobody but nobody ever commented on it.

    You know the words,”extraordinary rendition” or “non-lethal weapons”,or how about “depleted uranium”.

    In an under 48 hour stint at I had an argument over not being able to walk around the woods and collect Christmas pine cones for wreathes.  It was now”verboten” in this “post 911 world”.

    A better convention would be to stand up,click your heels and raise your right arm at a 45 degree angle every time you hear the phrase “in this post 911 world”.

    If you do, you will need this link.

  5. And I agree wholeheartly, especially with eliminating the use of words like “homeland security” and “war on terror.” Speaking of which, why do we have to declare war on everything? drugs, poverty, etc. Its like we think no one will pay attention to an issue until we declare war.

    I saw a guy on c-span a couple of weeks ago talking about how the left doesn’t know how to use language. He compared Republican titles like “No Child Left Behind” and “The Clear Skies Initiative” to the Democrats “SCHIP.” Very interesting…

    • frosti on December 21, 2007 at 05:01

    I love the nuances of language.  Great distinctions.  

  6. however not is not non…..

    look to the complement rather than the negation….

    remember that the world of the ten thousand things is innumerably polymorphic not purely disjunctive….


  7. Progressive – conservative

    Middle class – upper class with cash to donate

    Democracy – in Bushspeak, despotism

    Best,  Terry

  8. when talking with people I know about politics for all the same reasons.  My big one is not saying 9/11, but September eleventh.  9/11 has such a twisted connotation now and I feel like it diminishes the reality of what actually happened.  The right wing has done a lot of damage to everything they get involved in, and the rhetoric is a key player in accomplishing that.  I agree 100% that it’s important to take back the language first so the rest can follow, especially for those who write on sites like these.  We should never underestimate the power of the pen 🙂  

    Glad you wrote this!    

  9. I have been spending much more time among the military and the families due to the holidays.  I don’t fight with anyone and I do have a lot of people who want to talk with me now even though they have very different notions about what is happening in our country and what is dangerous and what isn’t.  I was at a Christmas party last Friday with a major winger Major and spent most of the evening talking to him.  Seemed like we couldn’t get away from each other.  He knows our next President is going to be a Democrat but he sure would like Bush to walk away with something that history will grant him.  He was talking about the liberal media and I didn’t even acknowledge knowing what he was talking about because in honesty I really don’t….I’ve just heard silly rumors spread around about a liberal media.  He said that this mean attacking liberal media had forced Bush to become a very private acting President instead of a public acting one and with every bone in my body I denied myself the natural reflex of spitting my white wine across the room under high velocity.  I told him that I was pretty sure that wasn’t the case as Bush started his Presidency with the fewest press conferences of almost any President in American history and I could dig those facts up and send them to him.  He made every effort to ignore any and all press and only began making an effort to deal with them when his popularity went into the toilet and everyone had a million “hard questions” they needed an answer to.  I stayed very respectful and stuck to the facts, if I fight with these guys anymore I accomplish nothing but more of the same but if I stay respectful and stick with facts and breathe very deeply and level that blank “what the hell are you talking about look” when I really am blank and I honestly factually don’t know what the hell they are talking about things seem to be going pretty fricken good these days 😉

  10. I’d only add that there are also words and phrases we should retake. for example, “patriot” “American” and “law and order”. the meanings of these words have been undermined by all the propaganda the right wing’s used them for. English needs rehab.

    • documel on December 22, 2007 at 02:42

    Sometimes the right wingnuts and their media lapdogs pollute the correct words.  Liberal is a positive trait–a Christian trait–not a word that should cause eyes to roll.  Pro-life should mean anti war.  Socialized medicine is not communism.  

    Yeah–I’ll talk to ya ’cause you’re a good guy–’cause I’m a proud liberal in favor of socialized medicine and against war.  You got a problem wit dat?

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