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In my professional career as a lawyer, I usually opposed stereotypical “lawyerly” language. No “party of the first part, party of the second part” language, and definitely no passive verbs (“such and such will be completed by specified date”). For much of my career, I was on staff (in-house) at large corporations, where I wrote business contracts and advised business executives. In writing business contracts, I considered it essential that all parties to the contract knew exactly which party was responsible for which task to which specification by which deadline. I used the names of the parties throughout the contract. Every task was expressed with which party was to do an active verb that constituted the task. [I provoked some inadvertently funny discussions when my attempts to be specific revealed that the negotiating parties had very different ideas about who was going to do certain tasks.]
Business executives I advised needed clear summaries about whether an action they were thinking about was consistent with an existing contract, or consistent with existing law, or what the probabilities and options were if the contact or law was not clear. Unclear language in laws, court decisions, and contracts kept frustrating me.
This morning I read a story about a middle school girl being suspended from school and her father suspended from his job as a school soccer coach.
A Vermont middle school soccer coach and his daughter were suspended allegedly for complaining about a trans female in the girls’ locker room.
Reading the story is very confusing, as the reader has to continually do mental gymnastics to keep in mind what the writer means by “trans female.”* The reader would have a much easier time understanding the story and its background controversy if the writers had just used clear, concise language: “A Vermont middle school soccer coach and his daughter were suspended allegedly for complaining about a boy in the girls’ locker room.”
The article writer could then explain that the school thinks the boy should be allowed in the girls’ locker room because the boy thinks he’s a girl; that the school believes the boy deserves for everyone to agree with his thinking that he’s a girl; and that the girl and her father need to be punished for their bigotry in objecting to allowing the boy who thinks he’s a girl to enter the girls’ locker room. Simple. Clear. The writer later summarizes the father soccer coach pointing out that the person coming into the girls’ locker room to change clothes is male, but until then a reader who is not up on the latest trendy lingo is left in confusion about why there’s a problem.
The “left” (or “woke” or however you want to call the social change vanguard) introduce a lot of confusion and ambiguity into our language. I have noted in other contexts that almost every new term the left introduces to be “more inclusive” actually makes the language less precise, and more confusing to the reader or listener. The left seems to depend on confusion to push their ideology.
I refuse to go along with the left’s confusing language. If more of us refused to use the new language, and encouraged others (like our media sources) to use clear and precise language, people could think more clearly.
* Maybe I’m just easily confused, but I always have trouble keeping straight whether a “trans female” is supposed to be a girl who thinks she’s a boy, or a boy who thinks he’s a girl. Every time I encounter “trans female” or “trans male” I have to stop to think about what that means. Such confusion interferes with my ability to think clearly about the issues involved. Language should help clear thinking, not interfere with clear thinking.Published in