Reclamation work

The pleasure of savoring words cannot be attained without some reclamation work. Words have to be “taken back,” brushed off, and sometimes healed. The business of reclaiming words from erosion or other damage might be seen as a project in species preservation. English – American English in particular, as we have said – has already suffered severe losses in a spreading epidemic of hyperbole. Streamlined and simplified popular media and textbooks have forced fewer and fewer words to serve the purposes of public discourse, so we sustain losses in nuance and precision whose consequences have not yet been fully recognized. As the internet opens up more independent avenues of discussion, more vigorous analysis and debate offsets some of the diminishments suffered by mainstream corporately controlled media. That is its own discussion, and a timely one. It’s clear that the internet is a two-edged and powerful tool, able to disseminate unprecedented amounts both of valuable information and of mis- or disinformation. Sorting becomes part of our responsibility as citizens, and we can’t do that alone; we need to be building circles of trust in which we sift and reflect on what we see. Some of this happens on social media, some of it in indispensable personal conversation among friends who keep each other accountable. In the course of all this, we exchange words, hone them for new uses, and dust off some that need to be repurposed for new circumstances – climate change, pandemic, shifting geopolitics, changing educational and social landscapes. 

From “Caring for Words In A Culture of Lies” by Marilyn McEntyre – Eerdmans Publishing