Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Word Wars

This morning I had this civilized chat with a fellow at a local coffee house:

Him: “Are you going to watch the Republican debates on TV?”

Me: “I doubt it. So far all the debates have been too scripted.”

Him: “But we have to know who to vote for; who thinks like us.”

Me: “You are assuming that you and I think alike.”

Him: “Don’t you? I’m Pro-life, Pro-Guns, Pro-Marriage, and Pro-family. Aren’t you?”

Me: “Yes, I am all of those things, but I wonder if we mean the same things by them. For example: I am Pro-Life. That means that in many cases I favor the life of the mother over the life of the unborn. That means I promote sexual education and the use of birth control. That means I am concerned with environmental sustainability and the survival of species other than my own. That means I am concerned with poverty, and social justice, and global climate change.

And I am Pro-gun. I want to see guns in the hands of responsible people: the police and the military. I want to see that civilian gun owners are trained in the use of firearms and have a license to own them, and that no one but the military and police have access to military-like hardware.

And I am Pro-Marriage. I want to keep the government out of our private lives, and leave marriage up to religion. The state should provide civil unions, and in this there should be no discrimination between gay and straight. If a couple wants a religious marriage they should go to a clergyperson who will provide such a service for them.

And I am Pro-Family, all kinds of families, gay and straight. And…

Him: Whoa! This isn’t what those words mean. You’ve got it all backwards.

Me: That is what they mean to me. If they mean the opposite to you, you should say so. You should ay you are anti-moms, anti-nature, anti-law and order, anti-religion, and anti-family. I would respect that. I just hate it when you take my words and use them for the opposite ends.

Him: Look, we own those words. They mean what we say they mean. We own ‘em because we coined ‘em. We own ‘em because we are the majority and the majority gets to decide what words mean. And you should stop using these words that way.

From here things degenerated into “I know you are, but what am I.” Still, he was a nice guy.

3 comments:

Matthew said...

Coincidentally, a friend of my has posted about how a "pro-life" law in Nicaragua (which doesn't allow for abortions even when the mother's life is in danger) has resulted in the deaths of 82 women so far. I wonder how your "pro-life" conversational partner would have answered that.

Details in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,2185811,00.html

Aaron said...

`When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

Rabbi Rami Shapiro said...

The only good egg is a scrambled egg. Take that HD!