A frequent topic of conversation here is criticism of SJWs and their insistence on using a specific form of English, often peppered with pseudo-academic jargon. These words are sometimes called “neologisms”—for example: cis-gendered, heteronormative, and “the performativity of gender.”
In his famous work 1984 George Orwell describes the creation of a new language, Newspeak, removing all nuance from English. The strategy involved replacing enjoyable, fantastic, and marvelous with good, plusgood, and doubleplusgood as a means of thought control.
Language and our understanding of reality
One may look to the real world for a similar example, namely modern Turkish. While originally intended as a Westernizing and modernizing political move, the introduction of the Latin alphabet during the early twentieth century unintentionally lead to a less nuanced and less descriptive language.
The Turkish government removed many words of Persian and Arabic origin. Eliminating words, intentionally or otherwise, is a dangerous path, as one’s worldview is created and articulated by one’s language.
First, however, let us discuss how language imparts our perception of reality. Our ability to distinguish colour is largely based on having a word for it. As such, ancient societies did not make the colour distinctions we do today. Most surprisingly perhaps, they did not have a word for “blue,” perceiving it as a shade of green, the latter being more common; there are few blue plants or animals.
The poet Homer described Aegean Sea as “wine-dark.” A language historian named Lazarus Geiger analyzed the Bible, the Koran, Icelandic sagas, and ancient Hindu texts, none of which contained descriptions of the sky or sea using equivalents of “blue.” Therefore, language is an extremely important tool for comprehending the world around us. The more limited one’s language, the more limited one’s worldview.
The origin of modern Turkish
This brings us to modern Turkish. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the nation of Turkey went through sweeping changes: the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished, wearing of the fez was outlawed, and most importantly, Turkey switched from using a form of Arabic script to the Latin alphabet; used by English, German, and French. However, many words with Arabic or Persian origin were eliminated from the language. As such, the language lost much of its descriptive ability.
For instance, in modern Turkish a handsome man is “çok güzel” (chock guezel phonetically), as is a beautiful woman, an adorable baby, a stunning building, a well-displayed meal, a striking painting, and even a nice cold glass of beer. English has numerous “quantifiers,” many, much, very, few, a few, little, a little, whereas Turkish only has “çok”, roughly equivalent of “very.”
Most disturbingly perhaps, the Turkish language’s words for emotions are essentially limited to versions of happy, sad, angry, bored, and so-so. English has more synonyms and near-synonyms for individual emotions than Turkish has for emotions in total.
Having lived in Turkey, Turks who are fluent in English frequently complain about the childish nature of their countrymen, which I believe is a direct result of the inability to express their emotions in a complicated and nuanced manner. For reference, estimates of the total vocabulary of Modern Turkish is about 100,000 words, whereas English has approximately 1.2 million.
Ireland, a nation of five million people, has 4 Nobel Prize winners for literature. Turkey, a nation of 70 million, has one, their only Nobel Prize laureate. Nevertheless, what does this have to do with political correctness?
My only feminist friend
The elimination of vocabulary is a dangerous game. By intentionally whittling down the English language we narrow the field of discussion and remove ideas that may be articulated. A friend of mine is a self-identifying “feminist,” albeit not of the Tumblr variety.
Given the relatively friendly terms on which we can discuss and debate, I believe she makes an interesting example. Being of Sri Lankan birth and parentage, English is a learned language for her, albeit her Tamil is now very weak. Thus, most of her vocabulary expansion came from her degree in “Women’s Studies” at University.
She and I were once discussing so-called “cultural appropriation.” I cited examples where powerful groups accurately and respectfully used cultural motifs from a foreign society, such as Mozart’s “Turkish March” or Brahms’ “Hungarian” works (Brahms being an Austrian during the period Hapsburg rule in Hungary), and furthermore, cited examples where a subservient group adopted the dances and music of the dominant group due to unforced assimilation
I contended that “cultural appropriation” was not necessarily bad; the poor girl did not know what “necessarily” meant. Without the word “necessarily” how could one understand the notion that an act may be positive, neutral, or negative depending on the context?
The concept of the “euphemism treadmill” is an interesting one. Take for example the word “cretin,” meaning someone with mental retardation. The term is bastardized from the French word chretien, meaning “Christian.” The term originated in the Middle Ages and was a plea to treat such people gently, reminding the speaker those people were still Christians.
“Retarded” was originally considered less offensive than the previously used “idiot” or “moron”; “retarded” meant held back or delayed, e.g. “My morning routine was retarded by heavy traffic.”
Eliminating words from a language is incredibly dangerous, as it limits the mental processes that one may comprehend or articulate. Our vision of reality is defined by our language. This is important to realize when debating with SJWs or feminists—their vocabulary, while seemingly academic, is often limited to the concepts which their twisted ideology permits them to comprehend.
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