Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday January 15, 2019
From snowflake to virtue signalling
Words are coined, reinvented, sent to pasture.
It’s just about impossible, for example, to use “gay” now in any context other than referencing homosexuality. So long “lighthearted and carefree.” (GLAAD lists “homosexual” as an offensive term in their media reference guide.)
Words are my business but I have a bitch of a time keeping up with evolving semantics. (Somebody will complain about b—-.) And Lord knows the Star responds with overweening accommodation to whinges about purportedly inappropriate lexicon.
I once had an editor order me to take “niggardly’’ — definition: miserly — out of a sentence because it was two-thirds evocative of an objectionable term, even though there’s no etymological connection. My argument that readers aren’t that stupid fell on deaf ears.
A word that sticks in my craw, for its ubiquity over the past year, is “racialized.” The term has been around, according to Collins Dictionary, for about 150 years. I don’t recall any wide usage, especially in newspapers, until recently. Racialize is a transitive verb, not an adjective. The adjective is racial: relating to race. Racialized is described by Oxford as “the way in which language is used to colonize, racialize and commodify the other; to categorize or divide according to race.” But we’re all the time writing phrases such as “racialized community” or “racialized policing” as a kind of virtue signalling shorthand.
Actually, “virtue signalling” has just about had its day, don’t you think? It’s usually intended pejoratively, snidely. As in tiresomely demonstrating one’s good character or moral correctness. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does it a lot. It’s become his earnest leitmotif. Right wingers are also overly fond of “snowflake,” meaning either over-emotional and easily offended or having an inflated sense of uniqueness. Snowflake should melt away already. (Pearl-clutching still has legs.)
What I’d like to see rubbished: Reach out.
As in, I am reaching out to you blah-blah-blah. Reaching out for comment, reaching out for consideration, reaching out to address your late bill payment. The phrase implies a kind of disingenuous courtesy coupled with an almost tactile engagement across cyberspace. Business environment buzz-slang that has invaded media spun communications and fuzzy-wuzzy professional blather. Sorry, I can’t be reached.
Oh, sorry not sorry. Popularized by Demi Lovato in the eponymous hit song aimed at her “haters.” You’re sorry because you’re not sorry, sarcastic-like. Lack of regret or repentance. Adopted, defiantly (and pre-emptively), by former premier Kathleen Wynne in her campaign ads this past year, she even opened her leadership debates with it. Sorry not sorry that the Liberals were chopped down to seven seats and lost official party status. (Continued : Rosie di Manno, Toronto Star)