Helen of Marlowe's Blog

The Language of Gun Control

Posted in "North Carolina", Language by helenofmarlowe on April 10, 2013

Language matters.

The Associated Press has decided to remove from its guidebook the term “illegal immigrant” to refer to people residing in a country without permission.  Because language influences thought.

Other political issues could also benefit from thoughtful use of language. Perhaps “gun regulations” would be less onerous than “gun control.”

As I’ve written before, such as here (Hospitality Customers), I do think language matters.

I’d like to see the term “gun control” replaced by the term “gun regulation” – because many (most? All?) products are regulated, so why should guns not be as well? Perhaps if the news writers, newscasters and commentators, editorial writers and bloggers spoke, not of President Obama’s actions regarding “gun control” but spoke rather of “gun regulations” – then perhaps fewer heels would dig in.

Today’s headline reads Obama Seeks Compromise on Gun Control. What if the headline read Obama Seeks Compromise on Gun Regulations  instead?

From Bloomberg Businessweek: “On Tuesday, Washington again will echo with calls for tougher gun control … ”  Wow! Gun Control! We can’t have that!

But what about gun regulations? You know, like seat belts and windshields and kerosene heaters are regulated? Just as toothpaste labels and highway speeds and electrical outlets are regulated? Can we speak of gun regulation, instead of gun control?

Would it help?  Since language matters?

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Hospitality Customers

Posted in Language by helenofmarlowe on January 22, 2012

Have we abandoned the idea that words have meaning?

In our local paper yesterday, in a story about Target being refurbished, the local “executive manager of logistics” is quoted as saying, “… it will be more inviting to our guests.”

Guests? Guests don’t pay. At least that used to be the case. What Target has is customers. And there’s nothing wrong with that word. I know that words evolve, language evolves. It made a little bit of sense some years ago when hotels began referring to their customers/clients/patrons as guests – since hotel “guests” do in fact stay overnight and eat meals, as your own house guest would do. But for Target, it seems a bit of a stretch.

In so many ways, words have lost their primary purpose of communicating, and have taken on a manipulative aspect.

Another example: I believe in protecting the lives of women, even when they’re pregnant. I believe in protecting the lives of panthers and bison and dolphins. I believe in protecting the arctic fox and the lynx. I believe in saving the amur leopard, of which there are only about twenty left in the world. I believe in the right to life of plants, if not individually, then as species. I believe that humans should not kill other animals for food or sport (though I would not condemn a starving hunter lost in the wild who knows that the net loss will be one life, either self or other). I believe nations have a responsibility to provide medical care to all its children, all its citizens – not just those who pay monthly premiums to a for-profit insurance company. Doesn’t this make me pro-life?

Not politically, but if language still made sense it would. But the term pro-life has been abducted, beaten out of shape, and recycled to mean some nonsense that defies logic.

How can we re-claim that term? From those who would destroy habitat and the planet in order to accommodate the one species of animal (human) that seems set on destroying the diversity of life on this planet? And are still claiming the term pro-life?

And as a last example of renegade language, I went yesterday to buy a gps in preparation for an upcoming fairly long trip. I opted for the more expensive model, because by paying more, I could get “free” map updates. Pay more, get “free” updates. ok.

As an aside – when I go into Target, I always notice a sign on their door: “Guide dogs only”. What? Wait – I’m not a guide dog . I can’t go in? Before I enter, the thought always arrests me momentarily… I’m not a guide dog! I can’t go in! And then I reconsider. They’d have no “guests” if people read the notices to mean what they say.

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