Thursday, January 12, 2012

Palabras perdidas/Lost words

I really liked this post by David Sirota for NationofChange. It is to some extent related with my entry on Orwell.

Commemorating our soon to be lost vernacular

By far, the lazi­est, most vapid ar­ti­cles an­nu­ally pub­lished dur­ing this post-hol­i­day sea­son are lists of the past year's top 10 words and apho­risms. Ad­mit­tedly, the sloth of such an en­deavor tempts me. But as a new dad ob­sessed with my 1-year-old son's fu­ture, I think I've got a more wor­thy list to add to the pile — one of cur­rent words and phrases that my kid may never know be­cause they might end up as relics of a lost ver­nac­u­lar.

Here are those har­row­ing 10. I hope I'm wrong but fear I'm not.

10. "Civil lib­er­ties" My son will surely read the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion in civics class, and he'll see stuff about rights to jury tri­als, due process and pro­tec­tion from un­rea­son­able searches. But these free­doms have been ex­tin­guished by pres­i­dents suc­ces­sively claim­ing pow­ers of in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion, war­rant­less sur­veil­lance and as­sas­si­na­tion of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens with­out charge. As­sum­ing there's still an ACLU that sends me mail and as­sum­ing my son sees the mail, he might ask, "What are civil lib­er­ties, Dad?" My re­sponse: "Good ques­tion."

9. "Pub­lic school" With for-profit forces suc­cess­fully push­ing to pri­va­tize pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, I pray there's a de­cent pub­lic school left for my son to at­tend -- at least then there's a chance he'll know what one is.

8. "Bud­get sur­plus" This term will be in the Bill Clin­ton foot­note of my son's his­tory text­book. But with our re­fusal to cut bloated de­fense bud­gets, em­brace sin­gle-payer health care and pre­serve Clin­ton's tax rates, he'll prob­a­bly have no idea what the term means.

7. "Potable water" No doubt in the shadow of ubiq­ui­tous oil and gas rigs, I'll tell my son of the hal­cyon days when drink­able H2O was widely avail­able. I'll also tell him that when he was a tod­dler, law­mak­ers ig­nored warn­ings that oil and gas drilling threat­ened to con­t­a­m­i­nate ground­wa­ter. Granted, I'll sound like the Lorax. Un­for­tu­nately, my story won't be a Dr.Seuss tale — it will be real. 

6. "Union" Even as states limit col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights and cor­po­ra­tions bust or­ga­niz­ing dri­ves, my son will some­how still know this word. The prob­lem is that he'll in­sist it's a Civil War-era syn­onym for "north" — and that's all.

5. "Peace" The Afghanistan War presses on un­abated. Mean­while, Wired mag­a­zine notes that a per­ma­nent pres­ence of pri­vate se­cu­rity con­trac­tors means our "mil­i­tary ef­forts in Iraq aren't com­ing to an end," and covert op­er­a­tions con­tinue in Pak­istan, Yemen and So­ma­lia. My son might en­counter "peace" when he reads Or­well and sees the phrase "War is peace," but he'll prob­a­bly take that phrase lit­er­ally in what the Pen­ta­gon now deems "the era of per­sis­tent con­flict."

4. "Democ­racy" "How can a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date win with­out the most votes?" my son will ask as he ap­proaches vot­ing age. "How can 40 Sen­a­tors fil­i­buster every­thing? Why are cor­po­ra­tions al­lowed to buy politi­cians? What's 'democ­racy,' dad?" Dead si­lence will fol­low.

3. "We're all in this to­gether." I'll try to teach my boy the val­ues in­her­ent in that slo­gan of sol­i­dar­ity. But in this Gilded Age of avarice, I fear I'll hear in re­turn that Amer­i­can motto: "Greed is good, daddy."

2. "News­pa­pers" Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia re­searchers pre­dict that within five years, "only four major daily news­pa­pers will con­tinue in print." Trag­i­cally, that sug­gests that when I ex­plain my ca­reer and I show my kid a news­pa­per, I'll be point­ing at a mu­seum's glass case.

1. "Jour­nal­ism" At that mu­seum, if I found the very news­pa­per in which you're read­ing this col­umn, I'd show my son the sur­round­ing ar­ti­cles re­port­ing on real is­sues in local com­mu­ni­ties. I'll tell him that he's look­ing at the lost art of jour­nal­ism — and I can only hope he doesn't re­spond by ask­ing me if it was "fair and bal­anced."

Copy­right Creators.​com 
Published on January 8, 2012
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