This is an opinion piece.

Does a dictionary tell you how a word is used or how a word should be used? There is a big difference.

A descriptive dictionary describes how a word is or has been popularly used without passing judgment on how it should be used like a prescriptive dictionary — which provides usage guidelines — would. 

There’s been a long battle in lexicography between the two philosophies, but most popular dictionaries lean toward descriptivism.

That’s how overzealous illiterates can get away with using “literally” to mean both actual and figurative depending on context. As annoying as that can be, it’s not the most egregious example.

It’s the nature of language to evolve. Words can take on new spellings, pronunciations and definitions and sometimes look, sound and mean something totally different than they did years prior. 

When words change naturally over time it’s called etymology. When they change over night it’s called leftism.

On the second day of confirmation hearings, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett apparently shocked the world when she used the term “preference” when answering a question posed by Sen. Mazie Hirono regarding gay rights. 

“Not once, but twice, you used the term 'sexual preference' to describe those in the LGBTQ community. And let me make clear, sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term,” Hirono said.

Though no one knew what she was talking about at the time, Hirono’s backlash would be vindicated just a few short hours later. 

Not only did more people pile on Barrett for using the term as if they too have long been offended by it, but Merriam-Webster Dictionary — one of the few dictionaries the public knows by name — changed its online definition of “preference” to include, for the first time since 1673, an offensive connotation when coupled with sexuality since it may imply  “a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”

Had it come at a different time and at a more gradual pace, there would still be plenty to argue over about the change. The fact that it was done suddenly to back up Democrat attacks on a Supreme Court nominee makes it even more, in a word, problematic.

If you think this has anything to do with LGBTTQQIAAP issues; it doesn’t. 

All language is a metaphor for reality. The relationship is such that one truly can change the other. So what does it say to you when a prominent senator can feign offense and get a word changed in an actual dictionary moments later? 

There’s a reason all the word games and big tech censorship seems to be piling up on one side of the political aisle, and it strikes at the heart of free speech. Why would a government try to suppress your first amendment rights when they have allies in the private sector to do the job for them?

If this were the sole instance, I’d agree that I’m being a bit dramatic. But the importance of words can’t be overstated. As the old adage goes, “He who controls the language controls the masses.”  

Daniel Taylor is news editor for The Reporter. His email is Daniel.taylor@sandmountainreporter.com.

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