Linguistic criticism of Industrial Society And Its Future

I’ve started listening to Industrial Society And Its Future on Audible, and it’s a bit disappointing so far. The author makes an internally coherent case with great clarity and confidence, which could be the definition of literary charisma, the problem is that many of his assertions are unsound. Here’s a quote from near the beginning:

When someone interprets as derogatory almost anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identifies) we conclude that he has inferiority feelings or low self-esteem. This tendency is pronounced among minority rights activists, whether or not they belong to the minority groups whose rights they defend. They are hypersensitive about the words used to designate minorities and about anything that is said concerning minorities. The terms “negro,” “oriental,” “handicapped” or “chick” for an African, an Asian, a disabled person or a woman originally had no derogatory connotation. “Broad” and “chick” were merely the feminine equivalents of “guy,” “dude” or “fellow.” The negative connotations have been attached to these terms by the activists themselves.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/unabomber/manifesto.text.htm

This is a very convincing bit of linguistic analysis, but it’s simply not true. Words associated with deleterious populations strongly tend to a pejorative shift in connotation over time. The most notable and established tendency is words associated with women taking on negative connotations. For example:

Gender Differences

Comments about the differences between male and female speech also first appear in Early Modern English. Predictably, perhaps, women’s speech virtually always loses by comparison. We have already mentioned Cawdrey’s dictionary (1604), compiled for the “benefit & helpe of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other unskilfull persons.” The bias against women’s usage, or what was perceived as women’s usage, continued throughout the entire EMnE period and was enshrined in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) in which one of Johnson’s pejorative labels was “womens cant,” applied to such words as flirtation, frightful, and horrid. (Johnson, by the way, defines cant as “barbarous jargon.”)

A Biography of the English Language by Milward and Hayes, pg. 243

Having noted this in a very academic way, you’re now free to notice the obvious pattern that words associated with Jews, blacks, gays, retards, and women (like the associated “tropes”) almost always become pejorative over time. The war on language is not because these groups are sensitive (there is quite a bit of research showing the opposite, most obviously e.g. blacks) but rather because pattern recognition is bad for their political interests. Like Blackwater changing its corporate name over and over, they’re trying to escape the consequences of a well-earned reputation for behavior that hurts the interests of everyone they associate with.

I’m inclined to speculate that this linguistic phenomenon of pejoration is a feature of evolution: those societies which don’t recognize the deleterious influences of these groups and enshrine this in language don’t survive.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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5 Responses to Linguistic criticism of Industrial Society And Its Future

  1. Heaviside says:

    >The war on language is not because these groups are sensitive (there is quite a bit of research showing the opposite, most obviously e.g. blacks) but rather because pattern recognition is bad for their political interests.

    I really disagree with how you came to this conclusion. You stimulate someone’s sensitivity by “getting under their skin” i.e. it is something that people try to hide. Statistical psychology isn’t the right tool for studying the unconscious mind. These groups (some more than others, especially Jews) are trying to avoid self-awareness, and as collateral damage they have to mystify themselves to others as well.

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