That’s called the “hook” or “gotcha.” Effective isn’t it? Now that I have your attention, the reason for hooks and gotchas, lets talk about semantics (or the meaning of words). In this largely illiterate society we live in words seem to be going out of fashion. Too bad. The English language is amazing, there is a precise word to describe almost every thought or emotion known to mankind. Why do we continue to dumb everything down?
A huge percentage of people queried will think the words bigot and racist are interchangeable. This is not the case. You can actually be a bigot without being racist, but if you’re a racist you’re usually a bigot. Lets look at the definitions of the two words as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. Words are critically important to our daily lives, and this is a case in point. Actually I am not proud of being a bigot.
Bigot. A person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.
Racist. A person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
Therefore, the synonym for racist isn’t bigot it’s racial bigot (putting a fine point on one’s intolerance). It gets complicated doesn’t it? That’s why having a large and diverse vocabulary is important. Its always been important, but no more so than now. In a time when flaunting one’s ignorance in public seems to be a national pastime, and folks even seem to take pride in doing so, I find the English language to be a comfort (something real and tangible that I can count on).
I will admit to being a bigot at times (not something I aspire to however), but being a racist is another matter altogether. Before we call people names we should know the meaning of those names. For some reason education and higher learning has become anathema in some circles, something to be shunned in favor of uninformed opinion. Shame on us. What are we teaching future generations? Embrace your Oxford English Dictionary as you would an old friend.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler