Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Married or equivalent

Change, I know, is inevitable.

Our language changes. Words get new meanings. Even words that are improperly used become acceptable when Webster’s decides that they have become so commonplace that they are now part of our language and are, therefore, now proper.

That irks me.

For example, take the lovely word “nauseous”. It used to mean “something that makes one nauseated”, as in, “That scent makes me nauseous”. A person would never say he was nauseous, because that meant that he made people feel as if they were going to expel the contents of their stomachs. He would say he was nauseated. But the incorrect “nauseous” surpassed the correct “nauseated” in usage. Now they are considered synonyms.

This kind of word-wiggling has hit home twice this week.

Get this: my daughter reports that her English professor is trying to make the “f-word” more acceptable, saying it shares its root with the word “conflict”. The teacher says it should not be viewed as being offensive. Say what? The teacher then asked for a show of hands of students who had never used the “f-word”. Only two hands went up, including my daughter’s. It reminds me, unnervingly so, of my ethics class when my professor asked the Christians in the room to raise their hands.

(Y’all, I could go off on that one for several pages, but will restrain myself for another day.)

Then came the kicker of the week, in the form of a question on a survey.

I was asked to check one of two choices: married or equivalent, or single or equivalent.

Pardon me? Uh, come again? When did there become an equivalent to marriage?

Little by little, the cultural moth eats away the moral fabric. The f-word becomes commonplace and professors in public universities praise its uncommon flexibility as noun, verb, adjective, phrase… and more! Surveyors decide that marriage can be synonymous with whatever one desires to equate it. Next, other surveyors will hail the wording as a pleasant, forward-thinking solution and it will become the normal survey question.

Forgive me if I’m nauseated.