It is 02:00 and I find myself at odds with a CBC article. Now, let’s be clear and upfront. CBC did nothing wrong, this is all me. The article ‘Canada’s English dictionary hasn’t been updated in almost 2 decades. What does that say about us?’ (at https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/canadian-english-dictionary-two-decades-1.6291089) set something off in me. In world where for the most people cannot tell you clearly what is going on, the media is in a stage of deniability by using ‘could’ and ‘might’ and we see politicians spinning 7 colours from Sunday and all these elements had nothing to do with a dictionary. Even a dictionary from 1855 might have been a better setting than the one we face nowadays. So I was feeling oddly agitated by the headline. So when the article gives us “Hailed as the “maven of Canadian English” by the Washington Post and known widely as Canada’s “word lady,” Katherine Barber was renowned for researching and documenting how language works in this country. In 1991, she became the founding editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary — the country’s first authoritative and comprehensive reference work for Canadian English — with the first edition publishing in 1998.” I had to take a step back. As a residing non-Canadian (I reside in Australia) I get the need for identity, I get the need for what can be seen in Canada as a personalised dictionary for all Canadians. Yet why am I so agitated? A Canadian dictionary does not affect me, so why does it bother me? It was then that the words “hasn’t been updated in almost 2 decades” seem to sound like the drumming distance of change. You see, there was a work that did sound like the stuff of nightmares. It is called ‘the use of euphemisms in mass-media discourse’ and there is the rub, the last two decades has been more and more about political correctness, now I am not against political correctness, the problem is that for the most we end up saying forms of insincerities and only in part saying what is the matter. Euphemisms are to some degree part of the problem. When we look at that meaning we get “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.” There are two issues here, the first is the mild substitution, the second part is the event of ‘too harsh or too blunt’, we end up saying something that is seemingly a form of dancing around the subject. And this has become worse and worse over the last two decades. Which is where I have a problem with the event, not with the sentiment of the article or some idea of it. The problem as I see it is that too often euphemisms are used to downplay events and that tends to have other reasons none of them about being politically correct, or less harsh. Merely more facilitating for the people telling the story and that inaccuracy is a much larger danger. I tend to grasp back at the most ridiculous of phrases “I lost my Husband”, I wonder if she checked the second drawer of her desk. Nope! He was not lost, he merely drove his car into another, the man is dead! There is no non-blunt way to say dead, we can go by non-living as: at present 5,458,856 people have joined the non-living via means of Covid.
OK, that was not too subtle but at times that is the only way to get things across. The problem is that the act of downplaying is massive in social media, as such the mis use of euphemisms are abundant and they are continuing to muddy the waters of clarity. As I personally see it, there is no need to update the dictionary over two decades, there is however a much larger need to properly use the dictionary that we do have and that is not happening either, the new words will nit change that, we need to be clear, we need to be precise and at times that is blunt and it is not extremely PC. Sometimes the truth and the precise truth is not nice and it is harsh, it happens. Downplaying events and hiding behind euphemisms helps no one, that much has been crystal clear for many years. Yet this is merely my view, you have every right to oppose my view.