This leads to an obvious question: Should I change the word now? I don’t actually have that power, but let’s say I did. The answer is probably not. Words have many definitions, but their context is key. It’s a lesson worth remembering so at this point I might as well own it.
Conor Dougherty

To change a word

You answer “probably not” — and I balk at that.


First and foremost, I’m a grammarian — to an annoying extent. Everyone who knows me (even people who post on the same boards as me) understand my deep hatred for folks who mix up “less” and “fewer.” I am the person that still cringes as using “personable” when talking about something other than how a person is physically attractive and mannerisms. I hate that “literally” can now mean “figuratively.” Like, seriously. What is that actually all about?

That being said, context is key here. Emasculating has become a word that means, to the average person, the act of doing something that takes away the masculinity of a man. While the dictionary does not use that definition first, it’s what the knee jerk reaction generally is when someone says “you are emasculating him.”

I want to say that it’s problematic that this everyman definition isn’t first in your mind — but that’s kind of presumptuous of me because I come from a specific background with known biases that cause me to see that word in that light. As someone who believes in the sanctity of a dictionary (yes, of course, the OED — anything else is a far second) above common definitions (literally will never mean figuratively, folks) I understand me thinking you not knowing this is, well, kinda dick of me. But still, there it is.

So, should you change it, if you could? I say, yes, probably.


Not because it’s politically correct, or people got mad at you.

Because there’s a better word out there to use.

And goddamnit, we need to protect the language! Because we’re wordsmiths, and our currency is language — it’s worth its weight in gold to us — and if we don’t protect it, who will?