September 24, 2004

Fred and the meaning of words

My friend Fred raises some interesting points about the meaning of the word hero in his post today. It's regarding 9/11 and whether is correct to label everyone who died that day a hero. Fred's point, and I tend to agree, while it's awful that those who reported to work at the Pentagon or the WTC were killed, they aren't really heroic, as they were simply ordinary people doing ordinary things. The first responders, firefighters, police and the like, those truly are heroes, as they had the choice not to go to the disaster.

Fred does, however, commit something that just irritates the living hell out of me. It's the misuse of a word, one that has become so bastardized the true meaning is known only by a few dozen drama majors and grumpy cretins such as myself. That word is "tragedy". A tragedy, for those who don't know, is a literary work, involving the ruination of a main character, who's ill-fortunes stem from an internal flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with a difficult situation. Nowadays though, "tragedy" is slapped onto every single bad event in modern life, from as big as 9/11 to everyday occurrences like kidnappings and murders. These things are horrific events, but they aren't tragedies. A tragedy would be me ruining my family's fortunes due to my rapturous lust for the delicious snack food Poppycock.

The word, obviously has had it's meaning replaced. I think I know why. We, as a people need a big word to describe such things. Calling 9/11 a horrible event doesn't get to the reality of it. So we've grabbed tragedy. And only grumps and drama majors don't like it.

Posted by Frinklin at September 24, 2004 12:03 AM
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