War on Useful Language

But this is a language game, and I am playing the role of the futile prescriptivist holding the line against a huge tide of people who would prefer that “terrorism” simply be a synonym for “doubleplus-ungood”. A perfectly accurate phrase like “heinous criminal violence” is simply not enough for these people: they demand that the T-word be deployed. And in the end, descriptivism is the correct school of linguistics, and thus in the long run I will inevitably be wrong. Eventually, terrorism will be a synonym for “doubleplus-ungood” and a useful tool of thought will have been blunted into uselessness, like a scalpel bashed repeatedly against a brick wall.

This reminds me of how we now call everything “war” — war on drugs, war on poverty, war on women, war on Christmas — except when we pay our armed forces to shoot at another nation’s people, in which case we call it “kinetic military action” or whatever.

Are “lone gunman” school shootings terrorism? — if they are, “terrorism” is useless as a concept.