How Words Get Mugged

“In George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ the fictional language Newspeak attempts to eliminate personal thought by restricting the expressiveness of the English language.”—Wikipedia

It’s not fiction anymore. There’s a pernicious trend afoot. Words that once meant one thing are now perverted to mean something else. Let’s take the latest example: the word “thug.”

We start with a standard definition, compliments of “Thug: a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.” In other words, a real bad guy, a criminal, and someone who physically violates the rights of others.

Recently a professional football player decided to conduct a ranting diatribe on national TV after a particularly hard fought game. He also happened to be an African American, or as many now like to say, “a man of color.”

Apparently his diatribe was so over the top that some commentators called him a thug.  Many agreed that he had acted like a “thug,” but truth be told, he was simply a pro-football player mouthing off in an offensive manner.

That should have been the end of the story. He wasn’t the first nor the last athlete, black or white, to shout and scream verbal venom.

But it wasn’t the end. Soon the media gods of racial sensitivity stepped into the fray. According to them, “thug” was really a white “code word” for the “N-word.” These protectors of racial consciousness posited that, since white folks couldn’t use the N-word in public anymore, they had substituted “thug” to mean the same thing.

So, through the pressure of their public pronouncements, a perfectly valid and useful word has been blacklisted (no pun intended). This has future implications.

If a white person commits a vicious crime, it’s still OK to call him a thug. But, from now on ,if a person of color commits a vicious crime, it will no longer be acceptable to call him a thug. In fact, according to the word police, it will be racist.

So goes the perversion of language in the once land of the free. The English language is getting mugged. What are going to be able to say about it?

(The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of or its advertisers.)

Ken West

Ken West

Contributing Writer
Ken West is a writer and speaker focused on helping individuals achieve a successful, balanced, and productive life. Ken, a former paratrooper who served in Vietnam, is the author of Get What You Want. He is past president of a chapter of the National Speakers Association, and founder of Better Grip Media LLC. Currently, Ken is the project manager for an international training and consulting firm in south Florida.
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