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Word Wednesday: Shades of Meaning

14 February 2007

This morning I spent more minutes than I should have worrying about today’s post. Because it is Wednesday, you know. And what would be the use of resuscitating Word Wednesdays if I can only last two weeks? Sure, I should only post word-themed posts if I have something to talk about, and it shouldn’t become a chore, but really, only two weeks in a row? If that’s all I can do, then that’s pretty pitiful. But then, while making my second monster mug of tea, I was distracted from my self-criticism by the intro to a local public radio program. Today’s guest was someone from Temple University, an anti-Holocaust scholar.

It just blew me away when I first heard the ad for this particular show a few days ago. In fact, I shouted at the radio in the car for a moment or two. I couldn’t believe that here in mild-mannered, polite Iowa, our public radio station was going to dedicate most of a show to an anti-Holocaust scholar. We aren’t Missouri, south of us, which has a tendency to swing conservative; we aren’t Kansas, southwest of us, home of Fred Phelps (as an aside, I’ve been proud of local Iowans who have made it abundantly clear to Phelps and his bully gang that they aren’t welcome here when they’ve come to disrupt Des Moines graduation ceremonies or military funerals with their message of hate), so why on earth are we interviewing an anti-Holocaust scholar on public radio? And why was this person invited to speak during the University of Northern Iowa’s Holocaust Remembrance and Education Program? Have we gone insane? Why should we give a platform to one of those deluded academics and neo-cons (I prefer to call them “whackos”) who deny the Holocaust? For the love of all gods great and small, Why?!

I tuned back in to what the announcer was saying. “Dr. Weiman is director of Temple’s Institute for Interreligious, Intercultural Dialogue. Her work focuses on informing and preventing the repetition of similar Holocaust situations world-wide. Weiman describes herself as an ‘Anti-Holocaust scholar.’”

Oh. That kind of anti. Not Merriam-Webster’s definition 2a (“opposing or hostile to in opinion, sympathy, or practice : anti-Semite”), but definition 4 (“combating or defending against : antiaircraft, anti-missile*”).

I always like to spout the truism that English has many more words than other languages, thus that in English you can better distinguish between shades of meaning. Well, I think we need at least one more prefix. Just to prevent misunderstanding. Don’t you agree?

And also? Dr, Weiman? Maybe you should self-style yourself something else. Just a thought. But, thanks! I now have a perfectly good Word Wednesday post.

* Does it bother no one else that the one has a hyphen and the other doesn’t? I wonder if this is a typo in the dictionary? Heaven forbid!

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