Finding the Right Words

Finding the Right Words

In all the discussion of sending the children of welfare mothers to orphanages, it seems to have escaped attention that an immoral use of
the English language is involved. An orphan has never meant anything but a child whose parents are dead. We are now asked to apply the same word orphan to a child whose parents are living. Neither in Dickens nor in any other writer or speaker of English before Newt Gingrich is there a precedent for this shocking transposition of feelings. But the Speaker of the House chose his word with craft, and knew that his coinage would answer a need of his audience.

As, under the proposed policy, children are to be snatched from unwilling mothers by order of the state, we want a way of assuring ourselves that what we are doing is natural. It would be natural if the mother did not exist. So, by the expansion of a single word the living mother is written out of existence. Having taken her off the welfare rolls in society, we
balance our books by taking her off the human rolls in language. For how many other classes of persons will we soon be requiring language to perform a similar service?

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima