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I used to think I had at least a reasonable command of the English language. It is, after all, my native (and, in the practical, conversational sense, only tongue), which puts me firmly among the unilingual ignoramuses Barack Obama wants to stamp out (once he’s dealt with the God-loving, gun-toting xenophobes out in backwoods Middle America.)

One of the advantages of being unilingual in what is essentially a unilingual culture is that when you only have one language, you have fewer definitions to learn.

Take, for example, the word “tolerant.” It’s a good word, and in its variations, it can mean a lot of things: “How’s the weather?” “Tolerable.” (That means the weather is within bearable levels.)

“I can’t tolerate politicians who lie.” (That means you find ALL politicians unbearable.)

As a noun, “tolerance” means “showing respect for the rights or opinions or practices of others.”

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday on San Francisco’s official condemnation of the Catholic Church specifically for its position on sexual morality. What caught my attention was this paragraph:

“According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ‘act of provocation’ by what it termed an ‘anti-gay,’ ‘anti-choice’ organization that aimed to ‘negatively influence the politics of America’s most tolerant and progressive city.’”

Evidently, “tolerant” doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. If it did, then San Francisco would, ummm, what’s the word … ah! tolerate those who hold sincere, but opposing views. Like, say, a religious organization?

Evidently, “progressive” doesn’t mean what I thought it did, either. Or even what the liberals who’ve adopted it define it to mean. They define “progressive” to mean “a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.”

Why should anyone feel marginalized by their government while their most cherished beliefs are condemned? That is the main argument advanced by pro-Islamic groups like CAIR, and they use it because it is a fair one. Freedom of religion is the most basic of American rights.

If you were a heterosexual pro-family, pro-life Catholic citizen of San Francisco and heard your most bedrock beliefs condemned as: “insulting to all San Franciscans,” “hateful,” “defamatory,” “insensitive” and “ignorant,” how protected would you feel your civil rights were in the most “tolerant and progressive” city in America?

Here’s a tantalizing idea. Islam is both restrictive of women’s rights AND prohibits homosexual conduct. And it proscribes the death penalty for those who violate its provisions. But no such resolution condemning Islam for its anti-gay and anti-choice rights is likely. That would rightly be neither “tolerant” nor “progressive.”

“Progressive” and “tolerant” now have to take their place with archaic words like “illegal” and “immigrant” and “nuanced” and “unbiased” and “racist” and “liar” on the Endangered Meaning List. They used to have a definite meaning. Now, they have so many meanings as to render them meaningless.

“Illegal” used to denote criminal behavior, which was frowned upon. Now, applying that term to a person who is unlawfully living as an immigrant inside the country is a “racist pejorative” whereas the act of being an illegal alien inculcates with it certain rights not available to legal American citizens.

Instead, they are “undocumented workers seeking a better life” – unless they are from a country other than Latin America. (If they are from Europe or Canada, they’re still illegal aliens.)

Like “progressive” and “tolerant,” I find, then, that “racist” really means exactly the opposite of what I thought it meant. And “immigrant” no longer means anything at all, since, as every open-border proponent will quickly remind you, “America is a nation of immigrants.”

Then there is the “unbiased” media. Under its carefully studied neutral gaze, they find nothing newsworthy about an official government declaration condemning a religion for its doctrine, in utter disregard for the much-vaunted First Amendment “separation” clause.

The same media that make front-page news out of a school that lets its football team open with prayer?

And I always thought “unbiased” meant “without bias.” Once again, I learn the word really means exactly the opposite.

Then there is that French-sounding word recently revived by John Kerry and now part of the contemporary political lexicon: “nuanced.” As I always understood the word, “nuanced” is supposed to convey multiple shades of meaning within a sentence (sort of a political double entendre, but dirtier).

Evidently, “nuanced” doesn’t mean that at all. It means taking polar opposite positions on the same issue at the same time.

The other day, I heard that Barack Obama’s positions on things like the Second Amendment, public financing of campaigns and the Iraq war were “nuanced.”

I need a new dictionary. This English one doesn’t make any sense.


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