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Kat’s blog: The Definition of Words Matters

Watch the current goings on in Washington.

Politicians have become fluent at arguing over the definition of words.

During the Clinton administration it was the word “is” that Pres. Clinton needed defined.

Now, with Attorney General Barr the word “summary” is an issue.

I don’t know about the folks in Washington but where I come from all you have to do is look up the definition of a word in the dictionary. It’s not rocket science. Definitions of words are pretty clear cut aren’t they? While those in Washington may dance around the dictionary meaning, most of us with a basic education understand perfectly Webster’s definition of words.

Or then again, maybe not.

Ask your average Joe what a “Registrant” or a “Registered Citizen” is. Most think the terms have something to do with either voting rights or immigration status.

How about the term “sex offender”? Most will say the first thing that pops into their heads, a “sex offender” is a child molester.

What about pedophile? For many, the words pedophile and “sex offender” are interchangeable.

Aren’t all “sex offenders” pedophiles, they ask?

While some may know that pedophilia is a DSM-V diagnosis related to a psychiatric disorder and that every “sex offender” is not a pedophile, there is a large portion of our society that doesn’t know that.

Words and their definitions matter.

Who do we blame for this haphazard use of verbiage? We can blame the media for some of it. It seems the media often uses the term “sex offender” to describe anyone and everyone. They seldom differentiate between low-level or violent offenders when using the term, after all, stories about low level offenders don’t make good press.

We can blame the government, they use the term Sex Offender Registry as a catch-all term. Even though all offenses are different the term Sex Offender Registry obliges the public’s interpretation that “everyone on this list has committed some heinous act” or they wouldn’t be on it. We know nothing could be further from the truth, but words and terms are misinterpreted by people, sometime inadvertently and sometimes intentionally.
Words and their correct definitions matter.

We need to begin correcting these errors when we see or hear them in news articles, in bills put forth by our legislators or in the media.

I guarantee that if we don’t, no one is going to do it for us.


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