Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

In recent years, I’ve come upon references to the concept of emotional triggers and “trigger warnings”..

The origin of this concept was in reference to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, where reminders of a traumatic event in a person’s past life would generate a temporary episode or flashback of emotional and/or physical reactions that interfered with the person’s mental health and normal daily functioning. Part of treatment for PTSD was to try to avoid situations that might typically set off one of these episodes.

But in more recent years, this concept has been co-opted by social justice warriors and others to refer to reminders of events or circumstances that might be upsetting, unpleasant, offensive, or merely a disagreement with events or circumstances that do not meet the criteria of the psychiatric definition of a mental health trauma.

For example, I read a message board thread about marital infidelity that warned readers of “possible triggers”. In another place online, it was implied that talking about class issues and poverty around someone who had grown up poor could be “triggering”. I’ve read about transgender people objecting to women talking about their biological functions: menstruation, pregnancy, etc, because they find it “triggering”.

But just what do they mean by “triggering” in such instances? Do they really think that being reminded of something unpleasant is going to generate a full blown episode of going to emotional pieces? Or do they actually find normal sadness or feeling upset comparable to a PTSD flashback?

I’ve seen the implications that others should walk on tiptoes around such people and always treat them with kid gloves as if they were emotionally and mentally fragile and might have a meltdown if they are confronted by anything upsetting, unpleasant, or something that offends them.

As for myself, my mother died suddenly when I was 13, an age that I really needed having my mother around. This event left a hole in my life that can never be refilled. Sometimes, to this day, I’ll read or hear things that reminds me of that event and I’ll be briefly sad and shed some tears. But I don’t allow this event from many years ago to define my life, nor do I expect to go out of my way to avoid reminders of it. Feeling sad about it from time to time is just part of my life and I’m not going to go to pieces about it. And I do not expect other people to avoid talking in front of me about their mothers, about death, and other things that might remind me of it.

Whatever happened to valuing emotional resilience and working through issues? Is it mentally healthy to avoid ever being sad, upset, offended, or even being challenged by disagreements? Is it helpful to go through life wrapped up in bubble wrap and expecting others to walk on eggshells around you in case you might be upset by something that might “trigger” you? I say not. Negative emotions are a part of life and working through the issues that upset us make us stronger in the long run.

(Note that I am NOT including PTSD or other events that do meet the criteria of a true psychological trauma that might generate actual flashbacks that interfere with a person’s mental health, but, rather, to lesser events that might make a person upset, sad, or offended.)


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A common euphemism I see all the time in the media occurs in references about who is having sex with who, as in “Celebrity A is sleeping with Celebrity B” or “I need to be in love with someone first before I can sleep with them.”

No! I’m sorry, but people don’t get into bed together in order to SNORE together. They go to bed to HAVE SEX.

It’s 2015 and there’s no need for this wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed euphemism.   Be direct and say what you really mean: “Celebrity A is having sex with Celebrity B” or “I need to be in love with someone first before I can have sex with them.”

It’s clear and to the point and it’s not vulgar or excessively descriptive.  One doesn’t need to use the F bomb in order to be direct.

Let’s consign “sleeping with” to the dustbin of history.

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I was having a discussion with someone who mentioned that another person is a “classically trained musician”. I hear this expression from time to time and wonder just exactly what one means by this, which sounds rather pretentious and hoity-toity to me.  I know someone who tells others he is a “classically trained musician” because he was once in the high school band and took private lessons on his instrument while in high school, but who has not performed in any capacity since that time. I roll my eyes every time I see him do it.

To give some background, I have formal training in music; it was my major when I attended university. Before that, I received formal instruction on the piano, flute, and French horn, both privately and in school and qualified for the regional band, comprised of musicians from several different schools in the area.  I did not attend a prestigious university for music, though I was accepted by one (Berklee).

But I would never think to describe myself as a “classically trained musician”, though instruction in classical music was most certainly part of my education.  My Facebook profile includes which university I attended and my major and that’s it.  I allow people to draw whatever conclusions they wish from that.   If asked, I would say that I have “formal musical training”, which is factual without pretentious euphemism.  Similarly, if I were currently a working  musician, I would never think of describing myself as an “artist”, which I also find unnecessary and euphemistic.  Musician is a perfectly respectful title that needs no embellishment and is a more specific description, too.

And despite being a formally trained musician,  the world is full of top drawer musicians who have no formal training at all, “classical” or otherwise, whose talent I could never hope to match.

Let’s quit using this unhelpful, vague, and elitist phrase and let the music speak for itself.

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Recently, I read a blog where the author claimed he wasn’t a “real” writer; that he was “just” an amateur.

Though I believe that anyone who writes is a writer, whether or not they get paid for it, that is not the point of this post. Rather, I will be discussing the word “amateur” and the misleading way many people use this word.

The primary definition of “amateur” simply means a person who engages in an activity for pleasure, for the love of it, rather than for financial compensation. An amateur does not make their living engaging in the activity mentioned.  Originally, there were no assumptions as to the quality of the activity performed; the sole point was that the person did not make their living from the activity or work.

Nowadays, the connotations of this word have mostly strayed from its original meaning. Most people use the word “amateur” today to imply shoddy, sloppy, substandard work. It is used to mean the opposite of the word “professional”, which now carries the assumption of quality work.

However, as with “amateur”, the original meaning of “professional” simply meant that one was paid for the relevant activity; this was how they made their living. And while a professional presumably did careful, meticulous work, the assumption that their work was necessarily superior to that of an amateur was not always implied.

Indeed, I’ve seen many amateurs who excel in their chosen activity. Olympic athletes, who are officially classified as amateur athletes, immediately come to mind. Similarly, I’ve seen too many “professionals” produce substandard workmanship. After all, how would the Better Business Bureau exist without so-called “professionals” doing shoddy work?

It is the dedication to excellence that makes the real difference, not whether or not the person is paid for their efforts.

Something to think about.

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cheating_rect-460x307One of my language pet peeves is the use of the word “cheating” to refer to marital/relationship infidelity, and the expression “cheating on” someone, to refer to somoene being unfaithful to their romantic partner.

It reminds me of math tests and country songs, such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart”.  It also has a decidedly juvenile, high-schoolish tone to it, as well as sounding more than a little redneck-y.

Though, of course, your mileage may vary, I prefer to use the words infidelity, unfaithful, and the like, rather than the mawkish “cheating”.

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Today, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I call “internet laughter”. That is, acronyms like LOL, LMAO, ROTFL, and others of this ilk. I find that more and more lately that this sort of thing really grates on my nerves.

The most common one, LOL, is the most irritating to me, in its ubiquitous inanity. It means “Laughing Out Loud”. Of course laughing is “out loud” 99.9% of the time; there’s no need to specify the “out loud” part. It’s silent laughter that would need specifying, I’m thinking. “Lolling” is even worse when it is written as “LOLOLOLOLOL” — laughing out loud, out loud, out loud, out loud, out loud. OK, we get it, no need for an echo!

LOL is written so often and many times where no laughter is intended, as to be essentially meaningless.   As in: “I went to the grocery store today. LOL.”  “I got a traffic ticket. LOL.”  “I did a load of laundry. LOL”  You get the idea.  It seems to have become the nervous twitch of the internet.

Back in 1995 or so, it was considered edgy and cool to use these new laughter acronyms. Now, it’s just dated and trite and has become old and tired, similar to those who type in ALL CAPS, all the time.

Me, I’m old school. I write “Haha”, “Hehe”, and the like, which are, at least, the actual sounds we make when we laugh, unlike the banal “LOL”.

LOL is nothing more than meaningless noise cluttering up the internet.


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It’s that time of year again.

Peace on Earth and good will toward all?

Unfortunately, no, not for everyone.  For some conspiracy-minded conservative Christians, both pious and merely political, it’s time to resurrect the dead horse they refer to as “The War on Christmas”.

In the last few days on Facebook, I’ve seen a particular meme repeatedly that expresses the sentiment:  “It’s not Happy Holidays, It’s Merry Christmas!!!!!”   Such posts are accompanied by typical comments expressing the view that to give the greeting “Happy Holidays” or its cousin “Season’s Greetings” is to somehow take Christ out of Christmas and to persecute Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas.  They assert that Jesus’ birthday is the (sole) reason for the season.  They also take great umbrage at anyone who dares to refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree”.  Some relate anecdotes of how they loudly proclaimed the sentiment in the meme above to unsuspecting cashiers in stores who had the effrontery to wish them Happy Holidays.  One, presumably young, woman expressed this sentiment, “” I don’t live my life to please others and if I offend you then oh well. ”

Seriously?  Is this what they think the season is all about; arguing about word choice when wishing someone the joy of the season?  Do they think that such a childish and peevish attitude accurately reflects the Jesus Christ they claim to champion? Don’t they know that such an attitude totally defeats the purpose of giving such a greeting, which is meant to wish joy and goodwill to the recipient?  Do they think anyone will want to become a Christian after being berated in such a petty manner?

“Love thy neighbor”, indeed.  Pardon me for a moment while I roll my eyes.

Some young and not so young people apparently have the mistaken impression that the terms Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings were recently invented within the last ten years just to annoy Christians, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These greetings have existed all during my 54 years on the planet  and existed well before I was born.

These terms simply acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year and they were meant to cover them all.   When I was a kid in the 6os, “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” were commonly used as a catch-all term to give wishes for both Christmas and New Year’s Day together and were often seen on greeting cards.  In public situations with strangers or those one did not know well, it was a handy way to wish the goodwill of the season when one didn’t know which religious holidays an individual might celebrate, if any.   Among family, friends, and those whom one knew reasonably well, one said Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, or whatever applied and, again, no one got offended if they got the “wrong” greeting.

For those who think “Happy Holidays” is a bit of  “political correctness”, let me point out that no one was politically correct in the mid 60s or before.  Back then, it was simply known as “good manners” and “common courtesy”.

No nefarious purposes were intended, and no one at all was offended by such greetings, even conservative Christians.  People graciously accepted such wishes of goodwill in the spirit they were intended.

To those who assert that the season has “always” been about Christmas and that the birth of Jesus is the sole reason for the season, most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but rather in the spring or summer.  Pagans had long celebrated the winter solstice at this time in December, so early church leaders picked this time to celebrate the birth of Christ and  re-purposed the Pagan celebration by appropriating several Pagan traditions along the way, hoping it would make it easier to convert Pagans to Christianity.  Decorated evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, the dinner feast, are all borrowed from Pagans. The original “reason for the season”, then,  was the Earth’s axial tilt; the solstice.
It’s also interesting to note that Puritans in Colonial America even banned the celebration of Christmas from 1659 to 1681, well cognizant of the Pagan roots of many Christmas traditions.

Personally, I don’t care which greeting anyone uses with me, as long as it’s sincere and meant to wish me goodwill.  I’m just happy that someone took the time to give me the good wishes of the season.   This time of year isn’t just about me; it’s about everyone.

There are real problems in this world. Whether a person says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays isn’t one of them — it’s a petty, first world “problem”. There are people in this world who don’t have enough to eat, a home to live in, and are dying of curable diseases. People need to take a moment and think about what really matters.  A little bit of tolerance and goodwill goes a long way this time of year.


I recommend this excellent blog post written by a Christian in response to those Christians who are offended by the use of “Happy Holidays”:  Happy Holidays and Other Four Letter Words.


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