Thursday, January 2, 2014

The meaning of the verb "judge"

Confession time. I really hate the way our society has changed the meaning of the verb "judge." I realize that English is a living language* and therefore is susceptible to change, so, in the end, I really just need to learn to deal with it. But what may perhaps be my larger annoyance here is that the old definitions still remain and still have purpose. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, I am looking primarily at these particular definitions:
1 : to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises

5 : to form an estimate or evaluation of; especially : to form a negative opinion about <shouldn't judge him because of his accent>

It is that 5th definition that would seem to be a newer** definition of the word, resulting from how society uses the word. Though, that definition isn't fully accurate. It says "especially," but the reality is that particular definition is used only in regards of forming a negative opinion. That one could even form a positive opinion (or, particularly, a neutral opinion) goes ignored in such use. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much difference between #1 and #5, except for a lack of weighing of evidence.

The other part of this that irks me is that our language already has a word that already accurately reflects the intention. That word is "condemn:"
1 : to declare to be reprehensible, wrong, or evil usually after weighing evidence and without reservation <a policy widely condemned as racist>

So I think it would be great if society would actually use that word instead, rather than muddling the word "judge." I know I have no power by which to influence all of society, but if you, my readers, could please be cautious with your terminology...thanks! If I can influence my little tiny corner of the world, then that will at least be something!

* I say this to note a potential hypocrisy. Homophobes have used the stupid argument of "redefining 'marriage'" as an excuse to oppose equal rights for homosexuals. To that argument, I have pointed out that English is a living language, so they should just deal with it. It seems a bit hypocritical for me to not do the same. But there does seem to also be an important difference. The current process of redefining "marriage" is more a broadening of the current definition, whereas, with "judge," we have a new definition that conflicts with the old definition that is still in use. It is probably this conflict that bothers me more than anything else. (And such conflicts could then lead to equivocation errors.)

** Or perhaps it has been this way for some time and I just had not noticed until the last couple of years?

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