Somebody remarked recently that we talk more and more and communicate less and less. The saying of Jesus, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37) seems forgotten in the torrent of words which people use. Earlier this week I heard a representative of one of the utility companies say on the radio, “We’re working around the proximity of their location”, by which I think he meant, “We’re working close to their homes.” Why do people do it – why do they talk in this convoluted way?
Often it is to obscure meaning, because if they used simple words, people would immediately grasp that something dreadful was going on. Thus we have the “quantitative easing” which means that the Bank of England is printing money: and in the past we’ve been told that that leads to a fatal spiral of inflation. But somehow “quantitative easing” doesn’t sound so awful, if indeed it sounds like anything at all. “Friendly fire” is another one, which means that you’ve killed people on your own side.
Last week a friend who works for a Catholic charity giving advice to women thinking about abortion told me something startling. Some doctors will ask a woman if her pregnancy is ‘wanted’. If the answer is ‘yes’ they then continue speaking about the ‘baby’ which she is carrying. If the answer is ‘no’ then they speak about the ‘foetus’.
This week we’ve heard quite a lot about the abuse of ‘children’. We hardly ever use this word nowadays. It’s ‘kids’ or ‘young people’. Certainly the music and fashion world – “youth culture” – would never use the ‘children’ word, because it wants to project an image of grown-up sophistication for its young customers. ‘Children’ is just not sexy! That is, until these poor ‘kids’ fall into the hands of adults who use and abuse them, and destroy their innocence of youth (what’s left of it) and dump them, probably damaged for life. Then they are children, and apparently they have been ‘let down’ by social workers, police, school …. though we don’t seem to hear much about being let down by parents? Perhaps if we continued to call children ‘children’ until they are ‘adults’ we might be more horrified about how we allow the young to be exploited on a day to day basis long before some dreadful case of abuse hits the headlines.