Sunday, August 31, 2008

Are You Anti-Semantic?

There seems to be a lot of prejudice in the world these days, more so than ever. And while it is couched in different ways and terminology most of it appears to be directed at one group. And it is striking at the very core of our existence. This prejudice is against our, in a word language!

I have always loved the way words can and are used to convey feelings and bring about desired reactions but unfortunately this has changed. While the change has been gradual it has not stopped and the result is frightening. I hear words being used in the wrong context and without thought. Some would say it brings tears to their ears. Of course they would be wrong on so many levels.

Semantics or the study of words and their development is a fascinating field. William Safire’s second career was spent writing about our language in a humorous and thought-provoking manner. The retired NY Times Magazine columnist will turn 80 next year and I am sure he could write several books on the subject. Unfortunately the people who need to read them would most likely not.

Some use words to deflect criticism of their actions and are constantly and consciously conspiring to confuse. These people are generally called Politicians. But businessmen also practice pragmatic paraphrasing.

For example there are many service station owners on Long Island these days who desire to deceive when it comes to the price of their product. In large numbers they promise one price but when you fill up your tank you find that the noted price was for cash only. Using a credit card will cost quite a bit extra per gallon. These retailers explain away complaints of credit card surcharges with a tongue in cheek offering of an opposing view, “discounts for cash!”

But my problem is not with these self-serving sons of bitches but rather the teaming masses of logophobics with verbophobia. Okay they may not actually have a fear of words but they most certainly don’t know how to use them properly. They will say something to you that causes a momentary shake of the head to take it in. You know there’s something odd about it but you cannot put your finger on it right away.

I am certain you can cite many of these on your own and I look forward to yours but here are a few of those situations I have come across recently. If you do not see or sense anything odd about them then perhaps you are a practicing anti-semantic.

Recently a friend told me that I must try a new restaurant he found because it was “great and the food was to die from.” I think I’ll pass.

Another man, and this unfortunately is common these days, told me that he has a problem with his prostrate. I suggested he lay down.

Someone, I’ll bet you know who said a while back that he wanted all of us to be able to put food on our family. I guess it was a kinky new way of eating dinner. The problem with that guy is that most of what he said was moronic so choosing one bon mot is ludicrous. He is most certainly anti-semantic.

I have run into many folks who don’t seem to understand that nukular is not a word. They insist on confusion (sorry.) I just don’t feel like expending any more energy to change their ways.

And speaking of energy if you wish to help our current crisis you might want to look into getting a hybrid vehicle such as the one I drive. Unfortunately many people I know will never be able to purchase them since the dealer will not understand their request. You see there is no such thing as a high-bred car nor is there a high-bird vehicle. The first would mean it was born to royalty and the second would, I guess be an eagle.

A celebrity on television recently claimed that he had to answer to the powers to be. Well to be or not to be may be a question but ‘the powers that be’ is the answer to his problem.

I enjoy playing around with words as I find semantics to be fun and I do so intentionally. But every time an anti-semantic speaks I cringe and have to bite the inside of my cheek. I am tired of the taste that action leaves. I feel I must turn the tide and start to defend our way of speaking. I am against the anti-semantics of our country and hereby state that when it comes to our language I have Pride and Prejudice. I axe you, should I not?

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