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The need to be sensitive, fair, and respectful can lead to all kinds of social and personal discoveries. A blind person will be the first to remind us that he or she is, indeed, a blind person, and the term is a needless euphemism. On the other hand, we should speak of "blind people," not "the blind." The word , in this regard, has become almost meaningless, and even the term , which has often been used in a nasty, derogatory way, has writers who claim it as a badge of honor. The power of language to hurt is never more clear than in the realm of racial slurs or epithets. Within an extremely restricted context, the word has been claimed as a mark of camaraderie and affection, but only a fool or a boor would use that word outside of that limited social and artistic context and only certain writers and journalists in special circumstances would have the artistic license to use it at all. The Editorials Editor of the contends that "There is, arguably, no other word which elicits the same expressions of disgust, or feelings of shock as universally as that racial epithet." We highly recommend Keith Woods' essay, from the online archives of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, on the uses of this particular racial epithet in journalistic situations. Among other things, the essay is instructive in the power of language.

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In the box below is a perfectly wonderful definition of a college. It was written, probably in the late 1940s, by Howard Lowry, a critic of nineteenth-century literature and a President of the College of Wooster. There are word choices in this definition, however, that might make people cringe today.


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Jon Gingerich is editor of O'Dwyer's magazine in New York. His fiction has been published in literary journals such as The Oyez Review, Pleiades, Helix Magazine, as well as The New York Press, London’s Litro magazine, and many others. He currently writes about politics and media trends at . Jon holds an MFA in creative writing from The New School. Some of his published fiction can be found at .


Here are few that drive me crazy.

I still can't accept "impact" as a verb. I ranted at a manager about "impactful", but he ignored me, so I started using impactment, impactitude, impateriffic, impactible, impactation, impactatory, in all my correspondence.

Sometimes those people are right.

bow down to Jon ~ I'm a big grammar geek, and was unaware of the majority of these. The most surprising is "moot". Although I checked it via the , and the mistaken usage dates to law students considering hypothetical cases.

Here are seven tools I have learned to love.

Now, some words first sneak into our language through common usage, then may (or may not, or might) become accepted. There is such a thing as an evolution of language where grammar has to step back at some point and allow intruders in. "Thru," I'm not including you.

Here are three types, from the innocent to the egregious!

How do you feel about the fact that in certain cases, when enough people use a word incorrectly for a long enough period of time, the incorrect usage becomes accepted as correct? I know diehards rail against this.

But how did it come to be this way, and is one side actually correct?

Will "to impact" and "impactful" eventually become official words? I guess if people get bored with using them, they'll be forgotten, but they may one day be real words. I was having a similar dispute in relation to "adjunct" - as in "someone teaches as an adjunct, not as full professor." Many people who actually do that job will say "I'm adjuncting at such and such college," and those unfamiliar with the usage will say that's not a word. Same (and weirder) with TA-ing.