For some time I’ve recognized an emerging need from Florida, and as a writer, editorialist, and all-around pretty good guy, I’d like to offer my help.
The struggle is once again over the term “climate change.” Many in the country—though it seems the sentiment dominates in the south, southwest, and Bible belt—don’t much like the term. They did for a while when it superseded “global warming,” but now even the alliteratively watered-down version has grown unpalatable, no longer meeting the generic (and non-anthrocentric) needs of those on the far, far right.
It’s tough to control language, though many have tried. We have my favorite example, the redefinition of “zero” when it comes to trans fats, along with North Carolina’s decision to change the definition of the word “measurement” when it comes to sea levels. Bur for true mastery we must turn to fiction. George Orwell wrote this frightening bit in 1984:
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten."
George writes in the same chapter that "It's a beautiful thing, the Destruction of words.”
It’s the capital “D” that always gets me.
In “Politics and the English Language” Orwell also pointed out that “Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.”
He could have been talking about what just happened in Florida where Governor Rick Scott, apparently frustrated that language control hasn’t gone far enough, has issued a so-called “gag order” regarding the use of certain words in an attempt to eliminate them from the dialog. The words he no longer approves of? “Climate” and “Change.” Particularly when used together. And particularly in that order.
Think it’s a joke? Think again.
But we desperately need to talk about it. An editorial in The Orlando Sentinel says that “gagging the experts in his [Scott’s] administration would be particularly outrageous, considering scientists say Florida is among the most vulnerable states to climate change.” Administrators, however, say that there is no such official gag order, though it seems pretty clear that something is going on. “Gov. Rick Scott and his staff insist his administration didn't ban the use of the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in official communications,” the article reads. However, “the regulators said the directive came by word of mouth from their supervisors.”
So what’s a southerner to do if they want to write/speak/pontificate on this most important of topics? As the clip below shows, unintended humor quickly followed in the wake of trying to talk through and around the topic:
It’s clear, though, that myriad journalists, newscasters, pundits, and dinner-table-conversationalists will need more options. And so, as a public service, I offer the following alternative phrases for those who wish to talk about it, but fear somehow that they’ll be overheard by the wrong people. Should you find yourself stumbling over the phrase “climate change” in some accidentally public forum, you can try one of these instead:
- The Gulf Expansion Program
- The Reshaping Florida Initiative
- Inland Migration
- Stream and River Expansion
- Land Re-salination
- Why Johnny Can’t Swim
- The “C-words”
- Incremental Sweating
- Angry Weatherbirds
- Coastal FOXification
and my favorite:
- Scott’s Folly™
One final note: I’ve written over and over and over again on the importance of knowledge, science, and facts, and say here again: Objective truth must not be politicized. Global warming, or climate change, or [enter euphemism of choice here] is real. It is not a conservative issue nor a liberal one. It’s humanity’s problem, not ideology’s, and humanity needs to join together in solving it.