Don't call it a spade
This has been going around. Guess I should say something. I really don’t know how to comment on that pile of nonsense. I might as well let the sages do it for me.
Confucius and his disciples were gathered at the master’s house. One of his disciples, Zilu, asks the master.
Zilu: The Duke of Wei has asked for your opinion in how to rule his realm. He’ll call you for an audience any time. What will be the first thing you tell him?
Confucius: Oh, that he must fix the names.
Zilu: What? That? Oh come on, master, what does that even mean. “Fix the names”. I don’t get it.
Confucius: Shut up, you stupid brat, and listen. It is like this. If the names aren’t correct, what you speak becomes nonsense. If you speak nonsense, you can’t get things done. If you don’t get things done, you can’t get the rituals to work. If the rituals don’t work, the law isn’t applied as it should. If the law isn’t applied as it should, the people can’t make a productive living. When a ruler names something, he must be able to make sense when talking about it. And when talking about it, he must be able to do what he means.
My translation. Philosophy of language was a hot thing in China in those days. The topic was “names”, not “words”, but of course it’s the same thing. Words are just names we put to things. Names we put to things for a reason. That reason should be to make communication more smooth, to make society work better.
Alas it works the other way around too. If you mess with words, if you use them in ways which don’t make communication more smooth. If you lie and manipulate and make up bullshit constantly; well society goes to hell. But making society go to hell through the purposefully wrong use of language is a common profession in our days. Certainly it’s the bulk of the work done by most of the academic establishment.