Giving words meaning

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Through the Looking Glass.

I was reminded of Humpty Dumpty’s immortal words when I read Prof. James R. Russell’s lengthy celebration of David Horowitz’s book, The Professors. That book is about the rabid Leftism that characterizes so many American professors. It turns out that Prof. Russell has experienced much of that insanity firsthand. Near the end of a lengthy article about the professorial insanity that would offend anyone normal person, whether that person claims the title “liberal” or “conservative,” Russell talks about what words mean in the context of the professors’ bizarre, anti-Democratic conduct:

A problem we face is that of terminology. Words like “liberal” and “Left” actually mean today the opposite of what they once did; while “conservatives” on American campuses are a dissenting, often disenfranchised minority who believe in freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, fair hiring practices, and so on. They tend to oppose the murder of Jews, the practice of slavery, female circumcision, and, of course, destroying office buildings full of working people with airplanes full of more working people. (Among the “little Eichmanns” working at the WTC when “the chickens came home to roost” were men and women from my old neighborhood, Washington Heights: Dominican immigrants who worked as janitors, as cooks at Windows on the World.) Let’s start by calling things by their right names: Horowitz’s 101 professors are bigots, racists, apologists for murder, fascists, traitors to this country.

Unsurprisingly, Prof. Russell’s thoughts about labeling tie in neatly with my earlier post about the Berkeley prof. who concluded that bad children grow up to be evil conservatives, while good children grow up to be good liberals. Even if one concedes the developmental trajectory, no one should allow professors to control the labels.

UPDATE:  For a wonderful post about words and their meanings, this time regarding the maybe yes/maybe no “civil war” in Iraq, be sure to check out this post at Callimachus’s Done With Mirrors.
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  • Ymarsakar

    Horowitz’s 101 professors are bigots, racists, apologists for murder, fascists, traitors to this country.

    Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
    Ovid

    My question, will we allow treason to prosper?

  • Pastor Ray

    I read the quoted passage. It is hyperbole, wrong, unworthy of anyone who aspires to increase knowledge. I’m sick that it was quoted. I read your blog, Bookworm, with more chagrin each day.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Yes, it is wrong, because when treason prospers, none (like Ray) dares to call it treason.

    See, old quotes still make sense, even after 2,000 years.

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