How to Redefine a Word

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    Nobody is “redefining” anything. Get off your high horse once an for all.

    How would you define it then? It seems reasonable to define “waterboarding” as “sessions of waterboarding” and not as the individual pours of water, no matter what your opinion is on the legality/efficacy of the practice. Why is this so Orwellian, as ED Kain suggests? By the way, this “Orwellian gambit” is yet another example “outrage” because it implies that anyone who thinks that the practice should be defined as “sessions” and not “pours” belongs in a totalitarian police state and only ED Kain and his friends belong in a free society, etc etc. Defining waterboarding as “sessions” is not an attempt to hide or cover up the practice but only one to make it more precise. Not doing so has the obvious purpose of exaggerating the practice to the unimaginable—i.e., it’s politically motivated.

    What if we used your criteria for other things in daily life? How many Cokes did you drink today? Well… let’s define “drinking a Coke” as individual sips. Then you’d become some kind of Coke pervert if you only drank one Coke.

    How about masturbation? Let’s define it as meaning individual strokes on the genitals. Then I masturbated about ten thousand times last week, or whatever. Why is this so stupid? Because we just don’t talk that way. Why, then, should we talk that way about waterboarding?Report

  2. Avatar rob
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    says:

    “Why, then, should we talk that way about waterboarding?”

    Because we talk about some things in sets (wholes) and other things in terms of the individual (parts). Yes, drinking a Coke is commonly understood as meaning “drinking an entire can or glass of Coke”. But it does not follow that all acts are understood in this manner.

    And given that the boasts about the efficacy of waterboarding include that it only needed thirty or forty seconds to break an extraordinarily resistant man and that it was used in a program designed to break the will of that man through sheer repetition aimed at producing ‘learned helplessness’, it seems to me that waterboarding is much better classified with the later (parts) than the former (wholes).

    There’s also the intent in treating it as a whole rather than a part, which is of course to obscure the viciousness of the act so as to reduce our discomfort.Report

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