Somewhere between 1.37 and 1.79 miles on my post-workday walk* on a treadmill at the gym today a favorite old word came to mind. I was watching CNN on a screen just off to my left – Fox News being a few monitors over to my right, of course – when it happened.
“Toady,” my brain said. I can’t say for sure if this was triggered by the sight of Rick Santorum or Lindsey Graham, but they both appeared on the screen just minutes apart.
Unsure if either of them met the actual definition of the word, I looked it up when I got home. Among other things, I’d decided I absolutely have to use toady correctly in a poem that is beginning to take lumpy shape in my brain.
Speaking of being preserved on the internet (or writing about it as I was on Friday), I stumbled across my old blog, puncture proof, this morning.
It had something to do with bicycle tires and opinions about various stuff.
The last thing I posted there still pointed to a Tumblr blog that I no longer have, so of course I felt compelled to update it to point to the one you’re reading now. This other page caught my eye and took me even farther back in time and memory and I found myself obligated to fix a mistake I made there, too.
I’m supposed to be writing something else at the moment, so I won’t dwell on this for long, but seeing myself in that in-between state left me feeling pretty good about where my wife and I are now. Both of us have had two feet and all of our bicycles in Colorado for quite a while now.
Reliable backups were hard to come by in ancient Rome, too, so no doubt the stories of many notables of the time really are lost forever because of those damn damnatio memoriae decrees.
You really don’t need to worry about Christopher Columbus, though. When Columbus Day inevitably gets replaced, the story of how he bumped into a tiny piece of the New World – long after many others did – will live on at least as long as our data centers and power supplies last.
After that, no one will care.
P.S. I agree that “Colorado Day” is bland and meaningless, and I guarantee it would never catch on nationally. Let’s call it Monday until we come up with something better.
Snarkmeisters and others have had a whale of a good time mocking PETA‘s latest effort to change public discourse and appetites, but the group reinforces an important concept here:
Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations. pic.twitter.com/o67EbBA7H4— PETA: Bringing Home the Bagels Since 1980 (@peta) December 4, 2018
Words do matter. So does the evolution of language.
Words express what we think, or in some cases what we want people to think we think. As language evolves, it reflects changes in our culture, in technology, in how we think or don’t think about religion and justice and politics and pretty much everything else. Our use of language reveals what we think about other humans and about animals, as well. What we think about them and how we treat them are closely related.
Speaking like you always have is easy. So is mocking those who advocate for change that you don’t like or that you don’t think is necessary. So is dismissing certain words and phrases as “politically correct,” a stale, overused term that we all would be better off without. (Evolve, dammit!)
Surely PETA expects mockery and denigration. Just as certainly, they know how to use words to provoke discussion and to make people think. May we continue to evolve toward a civilized society once our present backslide is over. It will require some thinking and careful choosing of words, and maybe a little less barking past each other.