Mark Twain once said the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. That’s kinda true. Of course, it’s not the only difference. No one ever ran out to catch a lightning bolt in an old Mason jar with holes in the top. Well, except maybe Ben Franklin. He drank a lot and had some weird fascination with electricity.
In fact, I doubt Mark Twain ever said that — he wrote that. Today’s lesson is about choosing the right word, for there is a huge difference between saying something and writing something. Anybody can say stuff. It takes geniuses to write things. That’s just my opinion, of course, in addition to it being a totally indisputable fact.
There are many words and phrases with which I have a problem, such as, “Mr. Johnson, here’s your bill.” But I’d like to point out a few others that are problematic on a larger scale.
Here’s one that came up a lot during my newsroom days: “mastermind.” Folks would use this term to describe such idiots as terrorists who try to blow up their shoe on an airplane. I’ve also heard the word mastermind used to describe militia leaders who’ve plotted to kidnap governors or storm the Capitol. These are not mental masters, y’all. They’re the kind of folks who believe everyone to the left of Ron DeSantis is a Satan-worshiping baby eater. They’re mental midgets, not masterminds.
Here’s a related one: “pedophile.” Pedophilia is a super serious issue that folks are willing to trivialize by applying it to anyone they disagree with. You really think Joe Biden is a pedophile? Using that word to describe someone you dislike is disgraceful when there are actual pedophiles targeting children.
Similarly, a lot of folks on the left and right are quick to throw the word Nazi out there to describe their political foes. You know who else does that? Vladimir Putin. When he gave his rambling explanation for invading Ukraine, he justified it by saying he was sending troops into the sovereign country to rid it of Nazis, knowing Russians have a completely warranted fear of the term given their history. Still, it’d be nice if someone in Russia would ask Putin what kind of progress he’s making on getting rid of the Nazis. Were they hiding in hospitals and apartment buildings? Was that 2-year-old you blew up a Nazi? How about that woman your troops raped? And that woman? And that child?
Speaking of that gutless coward Putin, the media and our government must stop calling him President Putin. He’s clearly a dictator. An evil dictator. Presidents are duly elected. If you compete with Putin, you get poisoned. Refer to him with a more accurate term like evil-gutless-cowardly-insecure-dictator-who-will burn-in-hell Vladimir Putin.
And, speaking of Hell… Everyone has to cool it with the Satanist references. Most recently it was failed Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor, who had claimed that the Georgia Guidestones monument — promoting humanism — was Satanist. Even Satan was like, “Naw, that’s human stuff. I’m busy in Ukraine right now.” Taylor literally made this “Satanic” monument part of her failed campaign and believes God destroyed the monument. It’s notable that a suspect driving a silver sedan was caught on surveillance tape. If that was God driving that car, this should be a much bigger story because I figured he’d be more of a Rolls Royce kind of guy. All this does help explain why Taylor is pretty sure she won the primary with 3.4% of the vote. She ain’t exactly a mastermind herself.
So, let’s be a little more careful with our words, plese. Then again, if you feel like referring to Vladimir Putin as a pedophile satanist Nazi, I’m OK with that. But whatever you do, please don’t call him president… or a mastermind.