Happy Holidays, plain and simple

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by Gordon Taylor/Region 10 ESC Executive Director

We are ruining the English language. Yes, really. I truly believe we are ruining it. Maybe you’ve noticed: We’ve picked up a bad habit of attaching meaning where there isn’t any. Let me take a simple word to illustrate my point. Consider the word red.

Red is a color, nothing more, nothing less. Texas Tech uniforms are red; so are Coca-Cola cans and Santa’s suit. Red, in and of itself, isn’t a good thing or a bad thing – it’s just red. Although I do like the Red Raiders, Coke, and Santa, it’s not because I like the color red.

Unfortunately, people have managed to attach extra meaning to that little word. In accounting, for example, being in the red is bad because it means you’ve spent more than you have. From the ‘20s through the ‘70s, if you called someone a red, it was an insult because you thought that person was a communist. Today, you often hear reported in the news that Texas is a red state, because Republicans are politically in control.

You know what the worst part is? These newly invented meanings often usurp the word’s intended meaning and that can lead to plenty of unintended consequences. We live in a world of political correctness, where too many people are eager to label you as insensitive, rude, naive or stupid, simply because your definition of a word doesn’t align with theirs. So I repeat, we’ve ruined a lot of perfectly good words over time, forcing us to choose our words all the more carefully to avoid tripping into an unwarranted trap.

What, you might ask, has prompted this tangent?

In the past, I could wish someone a Happy Holiday, and it was received as a respectful greeting because it made no reference to a specific religion or belief system. I couldn’t possibly know if the person I was greeting celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Mawlid al-Nabi, or the Winter Solstice, so Happy Holiday seemed like the perfect solution. Now, however, because our language continues to be ruined, when I use that phrase to be respectful of others, I’m often accused of selling out my religion.

So… Now that I’ve taken over 300 words to explain myself: I want to wish everyone a Happy Holiday! However you celebrate this most wonderful time of the year, I hope you find peace, fulfillment, and joy. Through our differences and our similarities, we are a wonderfully committed group of professionals who are focused on the future – the children and youth of our world. I love being a part of this staff and won’t apologize for saying so.

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