The Denver Metropolis Council this 7 days unanimously accredited a proposal to do away with the expression “illegal alien” in the town charter, replacing it with the far more ambiguous and clumsier, but politically acceptable, “worker with no authorization.” The state did the similar factor with a monthly bill very last session producing the identical substitute in public provider contracts. At the countrywide stage, the Biden administration has directed the appropriate federal businesses to ditch “illegal alien” in favor of the somewhat oxymoronic “undocumented citizen”.
For these of you who imagined that the grammatical laziness and insipid contractions which characterize present day “text language” were being the catalyst of the breakdown of the English language — nicely, you’re correct. But authorities features some stiff competitors.
The time period “illegal alien” is out, we are informed, for the reason that it carries a derogatory timbre. It is “dehumanizing,” we are informed, and “criminalizes people.” Properly, to the extent that the term is employed to describe someone whose presence in the United States is specifically due to the fee of an unlawful act, yes, I suppose it is, in the exact same perception that “speeder” might be applied to explain someone who exceeded posted pace limitations (disclosure: I have at moments recognized as a “speeder.” Mea Culpa.)
But the pertinent thoughts are: a) is the time period correct? And b) is it handy? On the 1st point, there can be very little dilemma as to its accuracy. “Alien,” basically, means “foreign,” or “extrinsic”. I’m an alien, owning been born and lifted in Canada and retaining a passport from that place. Most of you reading through this, I wager, if you had been to stop by my boyhood house, would be aliens. Had I not long gone by way of the system (which definitely needs some reforms but stays the duly legal procedure) and arrived here to reside anyway, I would be an “illegal alien.”
As for the usefulness of the expression, that is a sensible consideration. We have to have a way to distinguish, for a selection of reasons, these who are citizens and those people who are not. We additional need a way to distinguish amongst individuals non-citizens (us aliens) who are right here legally, and those who are not. The English language has offered us with the words and phrases to accurately and concisely make those distinctions.
The time period “alien,” granted, may well in modern usage conjure pictures of small inexperienced adult males, or some other manifestation of other-worldly beings but the precision of the phrase is not deflated by the actuality that a increasing the vast majority of our elected officials have been much more influenced by negative movies and b-grade documentaries on UFO sightings than by Jane Austen or John Keats.
The episode brings to intellect all of the other ravages the language has endured in excess of the previous couple decades of getting tortured in the provider of ideological conformity. The mad rush to purge any references to gender has amounted to a declaration of war on the synecdoche, to the stage wherever incorrect utilization is not only tolerated but envisioned for instance it is now perfectly suitable to adjust a sentence from “Anyone who wishes to go to the match should provide his revenue tomorrow” to “Anyone who needs to go to the activity should bring their revenue tomorrow.” I submit that any individual who writes a sentence like that really should not be creating sentences for a residing.
Language, just one readily concedes, does evolve. At times it is a sensible subject — terms to precisely explain area flight or computer engineering simply just did not exist at just one time, and other terms have grow to be anachronistic — “dialing” a quantity, for instance. And without a doubt, there is the regulation of said usage how a word is commonly recognized dictates its use – making use of “ideology” as a synonym for “philosophy” is a individual pet peeve of mine. There are considerations for highly developed sensibilities as properly we no for a longer time use specific phrases – “retarded”, for occasion, to describe an individual with mental disabilities – because their initial that means has been popularly twisted into the unpleasant and pejorative.
But is this the situation with “illegal alien”? A schoolyard bully would probably use a considerably much more hurtful, uncomplicated, and ignorant time period than the relatively polysyllabic and complex “illegal alien” if he (or she?) wishes to spew their venom.
The language vouchsafed us by King James was created to be specific, even though the language of ideology (making use of the word in its technically appropriate perception) depends on imprecision. Difference in conversation is a casualty of sloppy policy, but, as the antagonists in George Orwell’s most popular get the job done may possibly have reported, individuals these kinds of as sit on the Denver Metropolis Council could see this kind of indistinct homogeneity in speech as doubleplusgood.
Kelly Sloan is a political and general public affairs marketing consultant and a recovering journalist centered in Denver.