Years ago in school I had an argument with someone who rejected the term “subculture” to refer to groups within a society who had some cultural traits distinct from those of the culture of which they formed a part. It turned out that the argument was not at all about whether, for example, African-Americans possessed a culture with sufficient distinct culture traits to grant them a segment within overall American culture, but over the word “sub”, or, to be precise, the prefix “sub-“.
The argument went that “sub” means under in the sense of inferior. Well, of course it does; it means you are looking at a diagram or schema in which one element is subsumed under the overarching main frame, e.g. with European art music, Baroque is a subgenre. Inferior, in Latin, means “under”.
But in American English, inferior has taken on the meaning of “less than”, “not as good”, and so you cannot argue with people who operate soley within the framework of North American colloquial English as spoken by the majority, the so-called Language of Wider Communication.
In a matching vein, a New York City administrator (I just read about him and cannot remember exactly what his post was) had to resign when he used the word “niggardly”. It simply did not matter how you showed the origin and continued use of the word throughout the history of English and how it had no connection to the so-called N-word; his blood was called for. How much of that was ignorance and how much political pandering to a voting bloc? I don’t know but I suspect the worse; anyone with an adequate dictionary could have resolved the matter.
So my question is, just how can we hold our electorate accountable for their votes if they cannot even understand the language educated people use? Are our politicians condemned to keep their speech to the lowest common denominator lest they be misunderstood………. or worse, misunderestimated?