The contrarian |

The contrarian

Words matter, but who decides which words are to be used? To start, what defines, or who defines, a “classic?” The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines it “serving as a standard of excellence, of recognized value or enduring.” When a new book is published or a new movie comes out, right away some call it a classic. It seems to me a classic should be something that has stood the test of time, so by that definition, a new anything can’t be classic. That leads to “antique,” which also has the words enduring and classic as descriptors, with the general added definition of at least 100 years old. Except for cars, which research shows a “Classic Car” is at least 25 years old and 50 years is the minimum for a car to be considered an antique. At least those categories have easily followed guidelines.

Now let’s consider changes in capitalization from the arbiter of the Associated Press. Writers are told to follow established rules put out by The Chicago Manual of Style or the AP. While most are the same, inevitably there comes a time when one entity decides to make a bold change, such as when the AP in 2020 decreed the word Black should be capitalized when it refers to people. Their opinion is “language has evolved.” Yet this is the rest of their decision, “AP style will continue to lowercase the term white in racial, ethnic and cultural senses. This decision follows our move last month to capitalize Black in such uses.” ( › announcements › why-we-will-lowercase-white)

On the same avenue, wordsmiths wonder what is the difference in saying “a person of color,” and “a colored person.” The latter is today unacceptable but was OK for many years. Who objected? Who changed it? How and why did the term become a pejorative? In 1988 New York Times columnist, William Safire wrote, “. . . People of color, on the other hand, is a phrase encompassing all nonwhites. …but should not be used as a synonym for black; it refers to all racial groups that are not white.”

On another subject, in the vernacular of the day, Democrats have nabbed onto the word, “progressive.” That description is not accurate. What would you call a group that wants to defund the police, allow no-bail bonds for crimes, including murder, who opened up the southern border of the U.S. to anyone, where terrorists and other law breakers cross at will, allows people to burn businesses, occupy blocks of cities, kill store owners and stand aside to watch thugs stealing things off store shelves? Progressive? Hardly. Liberals seem to want to go back in history when lawlessness reigned. As long as we are using the latest in acceptable words, let’s call them what they are: Regressive.

Say it with me. Regressive.

Sanders is a national award-winning columnist. She can be reached through

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