Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + reactionary/reactive

reactionary/reactive
Many people incorrectly use “reactionary” to mean “acting in response to some outside stimulus.” That’s “reactive.” “Reactionary” actually has a very narrow meaning; it is a noun or adjective describing a form of looking backward that goes beyond conservatism (wanting to prevent change and maintain present conditions) to reaction—wanting to recreate a lost past. The advocates of restoring Czarist rule in Russia are reactionaries. While we’re on the subject, the term “proactive” formed by analogy with “reactive” seems superfluous to many of us. Use “active,” “assertive,” or “positive” whenever you can instead.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + socialize

socialize
People socialize at a party or on Facebook. Socialist governments socialize their economies. Sociologists speak of people being socialized into particular customs or groups. Animals can also be socialized. These are the main standard uses of “socialize.”

But people in the business world have developed a new meaning for “socialize”: to get people to agree with. Examples: “have them socialize the material with their work groups,” “we need to socialize the idea.” To nonspeakers of business jargon this sounds pretentious and silly.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + Romainian/Romanian

Romainian/Romanian
The ancient Romans referred to what we call “the Roman Empire” as Romania (roh-MAHN-ee-ya). The country north of Bulgaria borrowed this ancient name for itself. Older spellings—now obsolete—include “Roumania” and “Rumania.” But although in English we pronounce “Romania” roh-MAIN-ee-ya, it is never correct to spell the country’s name as “Romainia,” and the people and language are referred to not as “Romainian” but as “Romanian.”

Ancient Romans were citizens of the Roman empire, and today they are inhabitants of the city of Rome (which in Italian is Roma). Don’t confuse Romans with Romanians.

 
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + oppress/repress

oppress/repress
Dictators commonly oppress their citizens and repress dissent, but these words don’t mean exactly the same thing. “Repress” just means “keep under control.” Sometimes repression is a good thing: “During the job interview, repress the temptation to tell Mr. Brown that he has toilet paper stuck to his shoe.” Oppression is always bad, and implies serious persecution.



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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This Week: More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + Democrat Party/Democratic Party

Democrat Party/Democratic Party
Certain Republican members of Congress have played the childish game in recent years of referring to the opposition as the “Democrat Party,” hoping to imply that Democrats are not truly democratic. They succeed only in making themselves sound ignorant, and so will you if you imitate them. The name is “Democratic Party.” After all, we don’t say “Republic Party.”



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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This Week: More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + grow

grow
We used to grow our hair long or grow tomatoes in the yard, but now we are being urged to “grow the economy” or “grow your investments.” Business and government speakers have extended this usage widely, but it irritates traditionalists. Use “build,” “increase,” “expand,” “develop,” or “cause to grow” instead in formal writing.
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