A short lesson in present day linguistics to assist in navigating the contemporary political landscape.
In our societal discourse as of late there have been a few words that have been bandied about with increasing frequency. They’re trigger words employed, ironically, with the purpose of quelling discussion and debate as opposed to stimulating solutions out of the dialogue. Those that would use these words lob them as viscous, toxic grenades. Their purpose is to stick to the intended target and forever taint them, neutralizing any potential input they might have on future topics. If executed properly, that person could run up a beach screaming a tsunami is approaching, and onlookers will take to Twitter to mock and ridicule them.
By far the most common word is racist. Now one might be inclined to define racist thusly:
Rac·ist [rey-sist] A person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others.
This, however, would be incorrect. Or, to further complicate matters, the more accurate statement would be to say that it no longer adequately defines the word as it used today. So as to prevent confusion in the future one should bear in mind the modern, updated definition:
Rac·ist [rey-sist] A person who believes that no race should receive preferential treatment over any other.
It can be understandably perplexing that the definition has not only changed, but changed to mean virtually the opposite of what it used to. It’s best to accept it unquestionably. To not see the obvious reasoning for the change is to announce the others the applicability of the word to oneself.
If that were not enough, sexist, while owing its origins to racist, did not change in the same way. Instead, its present day definition became this:
Sex·ist [sek-sist] A person who believes that both genders have inherent differences in behaviors, abilities, and preferences.
Another popular word that has really picked up in frequency lately is homophobe. Surely this one hasn’t changed much, one might say. There shouldn’t be any reason why it would have changed from:
Ho·mo·phobe [hoh-muh-fohb] A person who fears or hates homosexuals and homosexuality.
With this definition in mind a specific image is conjured. For example, one might imagine a person so afraid of homosexuals that they absolutely refuse to ever use a public locker room. That is not an accident. It comes from the somewhat tongue-in-cheek use of –phobe as the suffix. A phobia, of course, is an irrational fear. Typically used in language to attach said irrational fear to whichever prefix is used. The key word there is irrational. That is the descriptor desired to cling to the intended target. The reason it is a tongue-in-cheek use in this instance is that phobias are in reality clinical definitions. And that is the intent. To label as irrational. To associate one with the stigma attached to mental instability.
While still largely the proper definition, there is a caveat. Unlike racist or sexist, homophobe didn’t have its definition change so much as expanded. This facilitated the use of the word on an ever expanding percentage of people, with all it encompasses. The expansion moved to include certain religious objectors (expanding further on this is an advanced lesson requiring skillful maneuvering through the double standard logic politically correct thinking produces), uncouth comedians, and hot headed television personalities.
Along the same line is Islamophobe. This is another way into the labyrinthine halls of P.C. reasoning, twisted to assert the goal of the moment. Identifying and defining an Islamophobe is not difficult.
Hopefully this has provided some small measure of clarity for future situations. It is always a shame to engage in discussion and not have clear understanding of another’s intentions. To take it one step further, here are a few new words to bring to the discussion. Enjoy, and use as is appropriate.
Christ·o·phobe [krayst-uh-fohb] A person who fears or hates Christ and Christianity.
An·ti-con·ser·va·tive [an-tahy-kuh n-sur-vuh-tiv, an-tee-] A person so opposed to anything associated with conservatism or traditional stances they’ll support any change to societal foundations, without regard to implications or unintentional consequences.
Tea·cist [tee-sist] A person who fears or hates the very thought of living without a huge government supervising all decisions, choices, speech, and thoughts.