As you no doubt have heard, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the first black woman on the Supreme Court said she couldn’t define “woman” because she’s “not a biologist.” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump quickly whipped up a piece about Senate Republicans trying to “undercut” Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation by asking her to define “woman,” but if you need a reason to be concerned, check out attorney Ron Coleman’s thread about why it matters.
Matthew Yglesias notes that it’s not a great basis for a political ideology to be “mad” that the meanings of words over time; actually, since the meaning of words changes, let’s change “notes” to “mansplains.” We know how Yglesias as a man feels about “woman” having no strict definition, but how do biological women feel about it?
Being mad that the meaning of words changes over time is not really a great basis for a political ideology.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 24, 2022
I'm not mad that the meaning of a word is changing. I'm mad that they're trying to redefine what it means to be a woman and that often comes at the expense of women.
— Bridget Phetasy (@BridgetPhetasy) March 24, 2022
*Are* people mad about words changing over time? Or are they mad about how people are diminishing the concept of womanhood (+degrading it linguistically, w gibberish like "birthing persons") & acting like there aren't legitimate shared traits/experiences worth having a name for?
— Liz Wolfe (@lizzywol) March 24, 2022
Because birthing people, gestator, chest-feeder, front hole, and other forms of newspeak that dismember women into parts and functions invented in 2019 and embedded all at once into corporate and public messaging is normal spontaneous language change, nothing different or new https://t.co/ihv0QyAbKr
— Wesley Yang (@wesyang) March 24, 2022
Matt, I know you were a philosophy major. I am a 30 year veteran philosophy professor. I'd be happy to have a serious conversation with you about this point your making, if you like. But I think you may not understand how linguistic change occurs and how it does not.
— The Electric Agora (@ElectricAgora) March 24, 2022
Correct with two caveats:
– Getting mad that people aren't going along with your new definitions is also not a basis for an ideology
– There is a specific import to words which are included in laws
— Tom Clarke (@tomeclarke) March 24, 2022
Plus, "language change" has only occurred if the new usage is widely accepted. It makes no sense to say "but language is always changing" when you're still actively trying to change the language. Sure, say that to stragglers if and when you win.
— Fabricio Nakata (@FabricioNakata) March 24, 2022
Alternative take: The meaning of a word hasn't changed if you can't define it.
— Nunzio Alioto 🇺🇸 (@nalioto) March 24, 2022
The meaning of the word has not changed over time for 99.9999% of population in this country or the world though. It's a political attempt of trying to change which is in motion. Big difference.
— WhyNot (@WhyNaught_) March 24, 2022
How long has the word “woman” been around and how many times has its definition changed over that time period? If the definition is “evolving,” it’s doing it awfully quickly and for most people at the risk of being canceled or banned from social media. Simply put:
Except language changes tend to evolve naturally over time and are widely accepted by the population. These language changes are being forced through quickly in order to support a political ideology that isn't popular except with a radical minority.
— FightForDemocracy (@MichelleSedill2) March 24, 2022
Legit changes in meaning happen organically as people start using words differently due to social change.
It's absurd when meanings are forced by activists with the aid of media, politicians & academics to catalyze a social change that hasn't happened & most ppl don't yet want.
— The Last Liberal (@KoliMitra) March 24, 2022
Uh, there's a difference between changing over time and changing in a three year period to some ridiculous meaning that's not even close to the original one, and frequently not supportable.
— MyAlteredEgo (@MyAlteredEgo) March 24, 2022
True, but then again so is the idea that you can realign public perception simply by changing what words are used or substituting alternative meanings.
— InsideJoke (@JO_clever_KE) March 24, 2022
We wouldn’t necessarily call it a ratio, but people seem to agree there’s a difference between a definition evolving organically over time and a drastic change being forced on people.
‘Not a vet but I know a duck from a cat.’ Yossi Gestetner OWNS Lefties ‘yas queening’ KBJ for refusing to define a woman in brutal thread https://t.co/W4tr0h0NiE
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) March 24, 2022