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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Bait and Switch

Years ago I was helping a young pastor (I was also young) start a new church. We met in our house. I helped with the music. It was good. Not a large crowd (obviously), but there was always Mrs. Jones (not her real name), a widow who was a constant attender and the largest financial contributor. One day the pastor came to me. "Stan," he said gravely, "Mrs. Jones has complained that you don't love her with Christian love." I searched my memory to try to figure out just where that might come from. I was unaware of that "fact". "Why does she say that?" I asked. "Well, she says you don't hug her when you see her." I was asked to leave the church.

Do you see what happened there? Mrs. Jones saw the word "love" as a key component of Christian living, but applied her own definition -- "hug" -- and I was found wanting. I wasn't excommunicated for lack of hugging; I was left out in the cold for lack of love. Except it wasn't love. It's the classic "bait and switch". "You believe in x, don't you?" "Yes, I do." "Well, now x means y and you just agreed with y."

We do this all the time, actually. You will hear someone say, "I could care less" which requires the ability to care less than I currently do (that is, "I do care") but is intended to convey that I don't care at all. (More correctly you would say, "I couldn't care less.") An ever-popular term is "irregardless" which is intended to mean the very same thing as "regardless", except that the "ir-" prefix means "not". Thus, "irregardless" would be a double negative and mean the opposite of "regardless". If you say, "The boxes were sitting there unpacked" you mean that they were packed. That is, "unpacked" means "packed". "Moot" is defined as "a subject to debate or dispute", but a "moot point" refers to "a point not worth debating." How about "egregious"? The term today means "outstandingly bad", but the dictionary says that definition #2 is "remarkably good". Now, to be sure, that second is marked "archaic", but clearly somewhere along the line "remarkably good" was redefined as "remarkably bad". Or how about "apology"? Today it says, "I was wrong and this is how I was wrong", but originally it meant "I was right and this is how I was right."

Words change, and not always rationally. Then you have to discard the old meaning and use the new one or you are no longer communicating. Unfortunately, in our current culture, no one is going to tell you that the word changed. They're just going to apply the new meaning and expect you to follow along.

So, now we've changed "marriage" to mean something it never did and "racism" is only applied to one race and women cannot be "sexist". Made-up words like "homophobic" (meaning "to fear homosexuals") have already to morphed to mean "to hate homosexuals" (which is not the same thing). A term like "fundamentalist" which meant "someone who sticks with the fundamentals" now means "an idiot who can't think his way out of paper sack" ... or worse. There, use that example. "Are you a fundamentalist?" The guy who is sticking with the fundamentals because they make perfect sense, are documented, are historical, and so forth says, "Yes" and is branded "an idiot who can't think his way out of a paper sack" even though it was thinking that got him there. Bait and switch.

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