Therefore when the kings had regulated names, when they had fixed terms and so distinguished actualities . . . they were careful to lead the people towards unity. Therefore making unauthorised distinctions between words, and making new words—thus confusing the correct nomenclature, causing the people to be in doubt and bringing about much litigation—was . . . a crime like that of using false credentials or false measures. . . . Hence the people were guileless. Being guileless, they could be easily ordered. Being easily ordered, they achieved results. . . . Should a true king arise, he must certainly follow the ancient terms and make the new ones.
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Published on: June 10, 2012
We have reached linguistic gridlock, in which bipartisan dialogue has been replaced by competing efforts to manipulate voters with loaded vocabularies. Nothing will change so long as Americans remain passive consumers of these vocabularies.
David Green is the author of The Language of Politics in America: Shaping Political Consciousness From McKinley to Reagan (Cornell University Press, 1991). He has taught at Ohio State, Cornell and York University.