Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The new definition of "hypocrite"

For centuries there's been a serviceable definition of the word "hypocrite."

I was listening to self-proclaimed etymologists Jeff Jacoby, columnist for the Boston Globe, and WTIC conservative talk show host Jim Vicevich explain the tortured logic behind their contention that Larry Craig is not a hypocrite.

While Craig has been a longtime promoter of "family values" and an opponent of gay rights, he's got a reported, and hidden history of having casual, homosexual sex in public bathrooms. That would make him "a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings," and that, my friends, is Webster speaking. He might also be said to be "a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion," and that's Webster too.

According to Jacoby, "Hypocrisy isn't merely saying one thing but sometimes doing another. Nor is it simply having a double standard - lionizing Anita Hill, say, but trashing Paula Jones (or vice versa). Hypocrisy is worse than that. It's a form of duplicity. A hypocrite is one who doesn't believe the moral views he proclaims and violates them routinely in his own life."

An altogether new spin on an old word, but perhaps Jacoby is shy about quoting from the dictionary after having been suspended for four months from the Globe for plagiarism, in the recent past.

I think this conservative re-purposing of language charming - an attempt by conservative intellectual wannabes to keep English alive (thereby giving it a fighting chance to remain the official language of the U.S.).

Who else would have come up with bon mots like, collateral damage, the surge, no child left behind, the patriot act and homeland security.

I suggest liberal begin using language that matters in the same way. Let's replace:

leader of the free world with irresponsible former drunk liar
support the troops with shoddy equipment, longer tours of duty and lack of purpose
free market with cronyism, corruption and no bid contracts
spreading democracy with killing people with whom we don't agree
nuclear with boogie man
victory with failure
hypocrite with conservative pundits

Let's put language back to work.

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