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Words, Jan. 21

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“Rosa Franklin, a Washington state Democratic senator, said she wants to dump labels such as ‘disadvantaged' and ‘at risk' in state law and replace them with ‘at hope,' because negative labels are hurting children's chances for success, adding … ‘We need to come up with positive terms.'

Does anybody else remember Curt Gowdy? He was a popular sports announcer two or three decades back, about the time the football gods decided to do away with ties by adding extra time to games, and adopting special rules that provided for quick resolution of victory or defeat. These overtime periods were popularly referred to as “sudden death.” Gowdy thought the terminology too negative. He used and advocated “sudden victory.” Nobody followed.

Sports fans are a pretty hard-hearted bunch; they don't cotton to losers and never refer to them as “athletically challenged.” Most people profess concern for children, though, so Senator Franklin's suggestion may be better received. But let's note that “disadvantaged” and “at risk” were themselves adopted to avoid the use of older and plainer words, like “poor.” “At hope” would  put us in a third generation of euphemism. I'm not sure that's a good place to be, or that we'll fool many children.

 “ ‘Under Mr. McDaniel's crabbed view of the law, no medical marijuana ballot title will ever make any sense,' Hall wrote.” …

“Americans United and its allies were disappointed. The Justice Department's view of standing, they asserted, is crabbed and, if adopted, could leave many Americans locked out of federal courthouses … ”

According to Merriam-Webster Online, crabbed  means “Marked by a forbidding moroseness: a crabbed view of human nature.”

I'd hoped to slip crabbed into a sentence of my own, but I was enjoined from doing so. The Bar Association's petition said that only lawyers are authorized to use the word. So be careful out there. If you insist on using crabbed, you may find a pack of lawyers howling in pursuit. Or you might be mistaken for a lawyer yourself, which would be even more unpleasant.

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