What words come to mind…(by Sumanthra Govender)

Not long ago, I was watching an episode of a popular American talk show. The host took issue with a word that a colleague used; the word was socialist. The host commented on how some words have become “buzzwords”. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary provides two different definitions for “buzzword”: 1. an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen, and 2. a voguish word or phrase. Buzzwords are socially and culturally dependent and can be domain specific. In this particular instance, the host commented that socialist and other words like liberal and feminist are being diluted, changed, or skewed to suit a current political agenda. People are throwing these words and other words around so freely like simple catchphrases, without truly knowing their meaning. In many ways, I have to agree. The words of the day are taking on so many different uses apart from the original intentions that at times it’s hard to keep up with the shifts. Many terms are simply being overused and overgeneralised to suit blanket perspectives or agendas. This made me wonder about how people define words, more specifically how “well” they know the buzzword(s) of the time.

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