« Whoosh! | Main | Landing »


By the way, think of the phrase "nonviolent drug offenses," which I used below. Aren't all drug offenses, by nature, nonviolent? If a drug addict mugs an old lady to pay for his habit, that's assault and robbery, not a violent drug offense. If a drug dealer shoots another drug dealer over a territorial dispute, that's murder, not a violent drug offense. By using the phrase "nonviolent drug offense," though, we imply that there's another kind. And this implies that some drug offenses are worth locking people up for. And once we imply that, then we're just haggling over the price of each, not arguing a fundamental point.

Without meaning to sound all Orwelly, the words we use matter. They shape (and sometimes cloud) our thoughts. That's why it's important to stop and think about what the words mean, instead of just reflexively using them. And that's why I endorse the use of the phrase "homicide bomber," which many think is silly. I endorse its use not because "homicide bomber" is more accurate, but because a change in our cliches means we have to pause and reflect on what those words refer to. "Suicide bomber" had become a one-word term, like peanut-butter-and-jelly. Nobody mentally broke it down into separate components, because people had become so used to saying it as a phrase. But by introducing the phrase "homicide bomber," people were forced to step back and consider what the words truly meant. Even if they ultimately concluded that suicide bomber was more suitable, it meant that they were thinking about it, instead of just using the phrase thoughtlessly. At least for a little while.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (2)

No, I still find "homicide bomber" silly. It's sort of like "hate crime": it seems redundant - the modifier is already implied in the noun.

If "suicide bomber" has gotten stale, then why not just "bomber" or "murderer"?

Well, murderer is less precise, less informative.

We could go with 'bomber,' yes, but that also omits salient facts. Suicide/Homicide bombers target people. "Bombers" may target buildings or infrastructure or the like.

But again, I care less about the term chosen than about the fact that we get people to think about what the term refers to.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 28, 2003 4:20 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Whoosh!.

The next post in this blog is Landing.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31