Redefine Everything

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on April 12, 2021

I'm a big fan of words. I like putting them in order to convey meaning and describe concepts. I don't like the current attempts to redefine everything as part of a wider effort to delegitimize one side or change the terms of the political debate. The effort to change the meaning of words to benefit political arguments is not new; I was ripping the New York Times for attempting it more than a decade ago with the term "filibuster."

While it is not uncommon for pundits, politicians or reporters to use words in new and interesting ways, counting on the publishers of dictionaries to quickly have their back is a new one. If you've watched the movie "The Professor and the Madman," or, better yet, read the book it was based on, then you can get a sense of the scholarship that used to be required for adding words to dictionaries.

No more. Now the editors of America's dictionaries, like the woke reporters at their newspapers and woke professors at their universities, are all too eager to reform society in ways that would make George Orwell blush.

Redefine: Sexual Preference

The most recent spate started last year with the Senate hearings on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. During her testimony, Barrett referred to "sexual preference," and Hawaii's dumbest Senator Mazie Hirono, chided her saying that it was "an offensive and outdated term."

Except, it wasn't until the very moment that Barrett used it. The Trump campaign quickly unearthed a brief clip of then-candidate Joe Biden using term just a few months earlier.

It wasn't offensive or outdated then, but Webster's dictionary added the tag "offensive" to use of the term quickly to buttress the attacks on Barrett and explained that it was, as of that moment "widely considered offensive." What a difference a day makes.

Redefine: Court packing

Court packing has historically referenced an attempt by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to add seats, and justices, to the Supreme Court after it had struck down as unconstitutional a number of his New Deal initiatives. The move failed when two Supreme Court justices bowed to political pressure and it became irrelevant as others died or retired over the period of FDR's more than a decade in office.

Because of this history, the term "court packing" carries with it a negative connotation. This explains why Democrats tried to accuse Republicans of doing it, when they were simply filling judicial vacancies as they've been done for the history of the country. Again, you can expect this out of political partisans, but the dictionaries were quick to follow suit.

Here's the definition before Democrats started this effort, from Nov. 1, 2020 via the Internet Archive:


Here's's definition as it appears today:

Note how the new definition has been tweaked in an attempt to validate Democrats' arguments. It's not just changing the number of judges on a court; it also includes changing their composition. Hence, anytime a liberal is replaced by a conservative, it's court packing. This will cease to be true the moment a Democratic president has the opportunity to replace one of the court's conservative justices.

Redefine: Bipartisan

This game started last month with Biden's new $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill which passed both the House and Senate with nary a GOP vote.

In recent weeks, Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain has marshaled the White House messaging apparatus to make the case that the president's aid package is bipartisan, not because any GOP lawmakers have signed on, but because polls show it has support from a large majority of the public, and because some Republican mayors and officials outside Washington have backed it.

Oh, OK. So if some Republican can be found somewhere that supports a specific piece of legislation, then by that definition it is bipartisan.

The term bipartisan has taken a beating in recent years as it has morphed from describing any measure or legislation that is broadly supported across party lines to anything that gains a single vote of someone from the other party. Political communications specialists now use the general public's positive perception of the former cases to lend legitimacy and power to the latter.

It's gotten to the point that even the sycophantic Democrat-Media Complex is having a hard time swallowing it.

To hear President Biden and his team tell it, a successful bipartisan bill need not attract a single Republican vote.

Sorry, but this is one of the reasons we have a republic, not a direct democracy.

“Everybody said I had no bipartisan support,” Biden said recently in Pittsburgh, referring to the covid relief package as he unveiled the broad outlines of his infrastructure plan. “The overwhelming bipartisan support were Republican — registered Republican voters.”

Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and chief of staff to former president Barack Obama, put it bluntly: “What’s become crystal clear is that Biden has redefined bipartisan.”

“It isn’t how many Republicans I’ve got,” Emanuel added. “It’s about how many Republican voters or mayors and governors can I get to support my stuff. And Washington is slow to catch up to the Biden definition.”

No. You don't get to redefine bipartisan this way. You don't get to choose some other constituency because you don't like the one voters elected.

This appeal to polls is also dishonest, since one of the biggest problems we've had ever since Biden began his general election run was a press that was not much interested in detailed policy issues or communicating substantive critiques of Democratic plans. Recall the half-hearted efforts to get Biden to give an answer on whether or not he would support court packing. His response was that whatever his answer, it would become an issue in the election. Yes! That's the point. The voters deserved to know, and the press refused to hold his feet to the fire over it.

The same party that famously declared "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it," can't appeal to public opinion polls as the basis for calling something bipartisan.

Redefine: Infrastructure

And now it's getting ridiculous. The media is slowly reporting that much of Biden's proposed new "infrastructure" bill isn't about infrastructure at all. This starts becoming inconvenient when you put it in an "infrastructure" bill. So, you redefine infrastructure.

You'll excuse my skepticism at the survey done by "Invest in America" and "Data for Progress," but no. Paid leave is paid leave. It is not infrastructure. Child care is child care. It is not infrastructure. Caregiving is caregiving. It is not infrastructure.

If all of these things are as popular as Data for Progress seems to suggest, then they should have no problem passing them separately, rather than lumping them all into one "must-pass" bill.

Samuel L. Jackson on Redefinitions

The key question here was uttered most eloquently by the actor Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction."

We apologize to all of our younger readers for the profanity, but the question is apt. Words have meaning. This concerted effort to bend the English language to serve a one-sided political purpose is odious. We should expect better from our political class, but that horse has likely left the barn.

However, if the media has any desire to reclaim some of its lost credibility, it needs to start pushing back.


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April 2021



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