‘Unacceptable’ is no longer acceptable
I’ve been watching language lately. People used to talk of things being “right” and “wrong,” or “good” and “bad.” When I went to a friend’s house to play, my mother would say, “Be good. Use your manners.” My mother would never have said, “Use your acceptable behavior today.” But for some time now, it has been frowned on to use any word that might be associated with some element of judgment.
“Unacceptable,” in my mind, means not quite nice. It means you could be somewhat better if you tried. It’s a weak word. I think it’s time to discard the word, “unacceptable,” which I hear constantly, and expand our vocabulary so our words really reflect our meanings. For example, some people behave in a restaurant in a way I would call “obnoxious,” “improper,” or “objectionable.” But even those words are too weak for much of what is happening in our capital. Senators and representatives who should be chosen for their wisdom and moral character are behaving in a way that people call “unacceptable.” I would suggest “foolish,” “intolerable,” or “offensive” even fall short of the way Congressmen address one another. Government leaders suggesting that people should be “drawn and quartered” are not behaving in an unacceptable way; they are inciting people to civil unrest and criminal behavior.
Here are some words that seem to fit better in the present state in our society: evil, sinful, wicked, and malicious. Let’s not call this behavior “nasty” or “unpleasant.” Let’s tell the truth. We need to face the truth and use the correct words to label any conduct or speech that needs to be changed. Before we can expect changes in behavior, we need to recognize the need for change. Let’s pull out the dictionary, be honest, and say what we mean. Only then can we hope to affect change.
Eunice Boeringa, Onamia