The other night, somebody used the word “retarded” as a synonym for stupid. This is something that irritates me to know end. I didn’t know the person, but they appeared to be reasonable, mature, and well-adjusted. And it got me to thinking.
Words don’t have any meaning beyond what we gave them. Sometimes, we fight these losing battles to hang on to the meaning of words that are changing. Like everything else in this broken world, it seems like inevitably, words spiral down, down, down, so that even the loftiest of words come to stand for things increasingly negative and impure.
There comes a point when the defenders of the old definition of a word are a bit like Don Quioxite. We’re so out of touch with how the word is now being used, it’s like we’re speaking a different language. There’s a sort-of romance in being one of the last few hold outs…
But what happens when we’re literally the last person who is holding on to the old meaning of a word? It seems like the case is stranger and more interesting than most other Don Quixote-type situations. Because in this case, you could start off totally in touch with reality… in this case, the definitions of words. But with out changing, the world can change around you, and you end up out of touch, babbling nonsense, even, because the world has moved on.