Words Mean What I Say They Mean

Carol Iannone

By Humpty Dumpty as told to Carol Iannone

Many people are not aware that Humpty Dumpty still abides, despite his unfortunate accident, due to the power of literature. On a recent visit to his wall, I found him rather agitated. He drew my attention to this paragraph from an article on Stephen Miller, the Trump advisor, by William D. Cohan in Vanity Fair. This is the whole paragraph:

Soon enough, though, Miller was embracing a white-nationalist agenda. His high-school yearbook quotation came from Teddy Roosevelt: “There can be no fifty-fifty Americanism in this country. There is room here for only 100 percent Americanism, only for those who are American and nothing else.”

Humpty commented:

I know that the quotation from your rather rambunctious 26th president has always been understood to further the idea of assimilation in your country, but I see that some people, such as this writer for Vanity Fair, have changed its meaning to signify “white supremacy.” And they have done this without consulting me. These same people have so willy-nilly distorted the word “racism” that it has begun to lose its meaning and its power, especially when they added such ridiculous terms as “microaggression.” This is a word that I myself would not touch with the proverbial five foot pole. [I pointed out to Humpty that the proverbial pole is ten feet, but he insisted that his version is correct.] I hear that to say if you work hard you can succeed is now a “microaggression” and thus “racism.” I cannot abide this. It is true that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men work hard to put me together again when I fall from my wall, and are unable to do so, but I have seen instances of hard work paying off, as in the case of the author who created such a fine creature as myself.  

When I use a word, I define it precisely, for example, my definition of “glory” as “a nice knock down argument.” But I never define a word to mean its opposite and I never define a word to do harm, as in this case. Assimilation is the opposite of “white supremacy” and if I cannot make them mean the same thing, no one can.

Image: 103 Humpty Dumpty by Marv Gillibrand / CC BY-NC 2.0

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