Friday, October 27, 2006

Alcoholic - The Word

Any language evolves like Topsy, it just grows and nobody controls it.

Even in countries where there are academies whose task it is to keep the language pristine, the language does what the people who use it choose for it to do.

The word alcoholic is an example.

Properly used, the word refers to a substance which contains alcohol; an alcoholic beverage or candy or dessert, or medicine.

As an idiom it refers to a person who is addicted to alcohol.

By terming that person an alcoholic, it is suggested that the person is responsible for his condition and has deliberately chosen that status.

Compare this to a person who is addicted to caffeine.

Imagine using the word caffeinic.

A smoker of tobacco, regardless of how much harm he does to his body and his fellow citizens will never be referred to as a nicotinic.

If you use the model for a nicotine addict: smoker, you would call an alcohol addict a drinker, a caffeine addict a drinker, a heroine addict an injector.

The idea that a person addicted to alcohol at one time and now free of that addiction is recovering is equally prejudicial.

Imagine calling a person who has successfully given up smoking a recovering nicotinic.

Very much the stuff of middle-school.

Language will ever be thus and it certainly makes for a richness of expression, but we can make an effort as individual speakers and writers to use language as thoughtfully as we can.----------------------------------Jack Wilson is a writer, artist, musician and recovering teacher in Tempe, Arizona. Source:

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