There is a “disconnect” between hearing and understanding.
It never ceases to amaze me when I say something in the language I grew up speaking to someone else who also grew up speaking what we perceive to be the same language and yet they fail to grasp what I’ve said. It’s especially confounding when they whole heartedly agree with me to my face but their actions state exactly the opposite. I asked an uber conservative a few years back what her thoughts were on what a liberal is. What she came up with, and yes, she and her HUSBAND talked it over and came up with a definition, was so off base it nearly brought me to tears. Another saw the dictionary definition of the term posted on Facebook and ranted over how ridiculously off base she thought the definition was. I hung my head and wondered when words stopped meaning what their root word plus their prefix or suffix put together should mean. What have they done to my language?
Now you might read the previous statement and wonder, “who’s she accusing of doing something to the language?” Your hunch would be right.
Throughout the history of man, languages have grown, evolved, changed and even mixed. That is the natural evolution of language. However, what’s been done now is not in the least bit natural. To make up words as Shakespeare did is one thing. To assign a whole new meaning to an old word is quite another. It’s perfectly okay to look at a word and say okay, this means one thing and this means another so together they have a new meaning that is a melding of the two original meanings. The word Face means the part of the head where one’s eyes, nose and mouth are located. The term book is something you read. The term Facebook is an entity where one can post pictures of one’s face and show ones personality in a format others can read. This is a perfectly acceptable and respectable new word. However, it’s a fallacy not to mention an extreme stretch to say the term liberal, which means:
believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change : relating to or supporting political liberalism
Liberal : of or belonging to the liberal political party in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom
: not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted
Full Definition of LIBERAL
a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts <liberal education>
b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
a : marked by generosity : openhanded <a liberal giver>
b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way <a liberal meal>
c : ample, full
obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious
: not literal or strict : loose <a liberal translation>
: broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism
b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives
That’s its definition according to Merriam-Webster. But to say that it no longer means that, it means a lazy, good for nothing, trashy person who thinks the government owes them a living is to corrupt its meaning. The term “liberal” is a derivative of the term “liberate”, which means to free. Which means a liberal minded person is a person with an open mind or who thinks freely, as in without limitations. It denotes a flexibility of thinking. And open minded often goes hand in hand with open hearted, or compassionate.
On the flip side, there is the conservative. The dictionary definition of this term is as follows:
Full Definition of CONSERVATIVE
a : of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism
b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism: as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : progressive conservative
a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional
b : marked by moderation or caution <a conservative estimate>
c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners
: of, relating to, or practicing Conservative Judaism
This is rather limited into a circle unto itself when trying to understand exactly what the party stands for so one must break it down into the definition of conservatism, which is as follows:
Full Definition of CONSERVATISM
a : the principles and policies of a Conservative party
b : the Conservative party
a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established
b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)
: the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change
There even appears to be a disconnection between the conservative and the base word even though they both have official definitions in the Meriam Webster dictionary. To conserve is as follows:
verb con•serve \kən-ˈsərv\
: to keep (something) safe from being damaged or destroyed
: to use (something) carefully in order to prevent loss or waste
Full Definition of CONSERVE
: to keep in a safe or sound state <he conserved his inheritance>; especially : to avoid wasteful or destructive use of <conserve natural resources>
: to preserve with sugar
: to maintain (a quantity) constant during a process of chemical, physical, or evolutionary change <conserved DNA sequences>
As you can see from the definitions, they differ quite extensively though from the same base and the words with suffixes vastly stray from the base word. This is not a natural progress of word evolution. The suffixes are supposed to expand the meaning of the base. They are not supposed to completely change the meanings of the words. The supposedly conservative political parties are not conserving anything. They are not protecting the interests of the people. They are not avoiding waste or destructive use of anything. They are preserving the ability of the rich to take unfair advantage of the middle class and the poor. These words no longer fit what their roots imply.
The fact that words have vastly strayed from what they’re supposed to mean has resulted in those who accept these changes and those that understand the words for the way they’re supposed to work and have always worked in the past to have completely different understanding of what the world is based on the way they understand the words describing it to mean. How are we to find common ground with such a vast gulf in the language itself?
More on this at a later date.