Friday, 22 April 2016

Getting it right

Hi there,
Here in Australia, we're in the midst of big debate. There are heated arguments on both sides of the fence, personal agendas and point scoring flying back and forth.

It's a highly political discussion we're engaged in and while I do have very strong views for one side of the debate, that's not what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about today is how emotive words can be used to sway an argument - even if you're using the words in conflict with their true meaning.

So this big discussion - well discussion is not exactly accurate because there are two diametrically opposed sides getting very hot under the collar over this - the big "discussion" centres on January 26.

This date, January 26, is sacred to many Australians and anathema to many others because January 26 is Australia Day.

Australia Day marks the day that the first British fleet arrived in Port Jackson, New South Wales, with the intention of colonising the Great Southern Land.

So while half the nation celebrates the colonising of a new country, the other half refers to it as invading - going so far as to petition to rename Australia Day as Invasion Day.

Okay. I'm loathe to get all political here so I won't turn this into my own personal soap box, but the word invasion is clearly being used for emotional purposes, isn't it? Regardless of whether your stance is that Australia was colonised by the British or the Aborigines already here were displaced - their home taken over, their land stolen, the word invasion, is technically wrong and I'll tell you why.

The word invade means to take over, it means - look it up - to enter a country by force with large numbers of soldiers to take possession ...  the dictionary I looked up goes on to explain this in more detail.

In any case, think Germany - Poland, China - Tibet, Vikings - France etc. These were invasions because the countries that were taken over were settled, had political capitals and were themselves colonised.

In 1788, when the First Fleet arrived, the Aborigines were none of these things. These were, for the most part, a nomadic people. They were separated by different tribes, different beliefs, different cultures and even different languages. They had no capital, they had no common ground and further, as with many native and primitive cultures, they were regularly at war with one another.

You cannot invade a country with that going on. You settle it, colonise it, develop it.

Sure, it's semantics, but to me it's an important point. I love words. I must have spent (without exaggeration) hours looking for just the right word to express a point or describe something in one of my books. Therefore, it upsets me greatly when political issues - really serious issues - are hijacked by those trying to push their own agendas by introducing language that is simply wrong.

Spin - that's what we call it when the marketers or spin doctors try to manage peoples' perceptions - or as some would say, "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story."

Words are important. You only need to send, what you consider to be a rather witty email to someone, only for them to take umbrage to realise that. Words are funny that way. They can be taken out of context, lost in translation, manipulated or simply used incorrectly.

Like swear words - I always say there's no such thing as bad language, just inappropriately used language.

In Australia, we're going to be bombarded by a lot of spin over the next couple of months because our government has announced an election. What joy! God save us from the pork-barrelling polly.

I want to talk more about words another time and share with you some wordy secrets I know.

Until next week - mean what you say and say exactly what you mean!

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