Monday, July 14, 2008
The way we speak, how we refer to certain things affects the way we behave.

18 years ago, when I started working in the HIV field, I was amazed at how the media ignored the science to go with the vernacular - for instance, "AIDS victim" and "AIDS virus". A person who has HIV is a person with HIV, not an AIDS victim and it's HIV, a virus that may cause AIDS. The first is an unbelievably sensationalist term and the second prevents effective education about HIV transmission, prevention and treatment. I spent years undoing the damage that was done around that term.

I won't go into all of the media misuse of scientific terms because it could be an entire textbook.

Recently, Liss at Shakesville has been championing the cause against the defiant misuse of "sex" when the word that should be used is "rape". When a man has forced sexual intercourse with his daughter while keeping her in a basement, it is rape and should be considered as such by the media. I imagine it is search engines looking for the word "sex" that makes CNN continue using the "forced her to engage in sex acts" when the more concise term would be "raped her".

What brings up all of this rumination on semantics is this survey, commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc., which polled 1,043 "tweens" ages 11 to 14; 523 parents of tweens; and 626 teens ages 15 to 18.

The article, published by Reuters was entitled, "Young love often marred by abuse."

In the survey, among youths who reported sex by age 14, 33 percent said they had been hit, choked or punched, while 58 percent had been verbally abused. In comparison, about 10 percent of all 15- to 18-year-olds reported physical abuse by a partner, and 29 percent reported verbal abuse.

I don't know if author, Julie Steenhuysen, wrote this headline or not but what is described in this survey is not young love. When a teen hits another teen while in a relationship, it is violence. When the abuser apologizes and promises never to do it again, it is the beginning of a long road which often leads to someone being seriously injured or killed and too rarely results in the abuser going to jail. Romanticizing it as "young love" serves no further purpose than sensationalism.

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i want to say something deep and profound about that post...
but all i can come up w/ is that i agree... and the impact faulty language has is ridiculous...

also, those stats on the tweens... that's shocking...

what is going on w/ this society?!


Blogger twinsetellen said...

It is an eternal struggle to fight the language battle. Thanks for this volley.

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