Submitted by Carolyn Rogerson
I have always loved words; their origin, evolution, as well as their definition. One of my favorite NYT columns was William Safire’s “On Language.” Smile if you remember Bill Safire. The origin and evolution of words fascinates me. Incorrect, careless word usage irks me, because words have power.
A few of the most recently overworked, incorrectly used words include amazing, huge, Nazi, elitist and socialism. If we all consulted a copy of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, this might not be the case. The computer may auto-correct spelling and grammar, but it isn’t a mind reader. Let’s examine the word elitist. Webster’s defines elitist as a noun, describing one who describes themselves as a member of a socially esteemed group, better than others.
One way to determine if a word, such as elitist, is what we really mean to say is to check the synonyms. Synonyms for elitist are aristocratic, high-hat, persnickety, snob, snooty, ritzy. Quick, who is the first person who comes to mind? Was it Mayor Richard Bailey?
Do you think a mayor, who held about eight town hall meetings in 2019, all over town, from the end of Coronado Cays to the Ferry Landing, with no time limits, answering every attendee’s question, could be described as a snobby high-hat? Does a mayor who invites residents to send in voice mails, emails and to appear in person regarding a local “hot topic,” and then spends over two hours, in special City Council session, listening to the pros and cons of the same topic, sound persnickety and aristocratic to you? Would egalitarian be a more appropriate adjective? Look it up.
Words have power. Misuse words and you misinform. Word usage does evolve; but rarely does a word become its own antonym. Please use a dictionary before you write an opinion ‘letter to the editor’ for all to read. We shouldn’t let our emotions compromise our better judgement or correct word usage.