J. Andrew Kirk

The Abuse of Language and the Language of Abuse

The particular words, whose use and meaning is examined in this study, are commonly used by people with strong convictions about moral issues and identity politics. They are often attached to ideals, policies and practices in diverse and frequently contradictory ways. Is there, then, so much confusion that the words no longer serve any useful purpose? Or, is there some merit in trying to indicate how the meaning of the words is being stretched to such an extent that the same word has come to signify conflicting opinions? When people expropriate language for particular partisan causes, communication becomes ambiguous and misleading. The rhetoric may sound persuasive, but it breaks down, when the conversation partner has little idea what the other is talking about. Reasoning together requires at least a minimal agreement on what a person intends when they employ certain words and phrases. The book shows how key words have become misused and how they may be restored to a more precise and accurate meaning.
257 printed pages
Original publication



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