The Changing Meaning of Words


Letters from the front during WWI were scribed in beautiful copperplate handwriting in sensible sentences expressing love, thoughtfulness and yearning for home, tinged with a strong sense of duty, selflessness, of honour.

Prosperity and diversity since have brought changes in values and language, so that today, from the trenches of privilege, text and emoji may be the ultimate expression of emotional depth.

Yet language is constantly evolving: Macquarie Dictionary annually introduces new words or phrases that have become part of the lexicon of Australia. Decline in moral leadership in government, major institutions and churches has left a vacuum willingly filled by people pursuing particular causes, reframing morality and virtue as they go. As a result, some significant changes in the meaning of words often reflect a change in “insider” morality imposed upon us by those trumpeting their virtues. At the same time those who have lived and remember history, are condemned for holding values that stood us in good stead in earlier times.


Nowhere is the divergence of the meaning of the word “honour” more evident than in the Bourke Street terrorist attack. To the attacker acting according to his Koranic edicts, honour meant slaying “infidels”, never mind that they were people merely going about their business in a country that had welcomed and supported the immigrant in need. To us there is no honour in such violence and ingratitude. The victim was also responding to his inner values of honour, going out of his way to help someone who appeared to be in trouble. The outcome is something to ponder: as our values and the meaning of our words are challenged, how alert must we be to potential harm to us and our community?


In a more homogeneous society, when Judaeo/Christian leadership informed our legislature and way of life, we knew what virtue was: kindness, caring, doing the right thing by your neighbour, children and your parents, being honest, sexual propriety, obeying the laws of the land. Now the moral vacuum has been filled by the faithless, who nevertheless, play God, signalling their own virtue while denouncing publicly and widely through social and any other media, alleged sins of those who may merely have a different opinion on issues such as: race, aboriginality, refugee placement, climate change, energy generation, gender preference, religious freedom, marriage and family and the contribution of western civilisation. Without allowing into the debate the countervailing influence of alternative opinions, we could find ourselves on the way to totalitarianism similar to that defeated by the brave, pragmatic defence personnel a hundred years ago. Lest we forget!

Judgemental virtue signalling has replaced the essence and meaning of virtue.  As our basic needs at the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy have been met, thanks to hard work that achieved greater prosperity for us, powerful “insiders” seek self-realisation in the promotion of self in virtue – in seeking to do something wonderful for the planet, refugees, women, LGBTQI community. Denunciation and de-platforming of others of differing opinion goes hand in hand with self-promoting virtue signalling. Misrepresentation and sensitivity to offence is rife. After all, the privileged elite know what’s good for the rest of us.

Always there is the contradiction in their words and action. Whether or not they are astute enough to realise it, in a totalitarian state there would be no freedom to express their emotional, irrational views. Furthermore, hatred is a multiplier that too easily can become self-consuming, as demonstrated in a longitudinal example in Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life that ended in self destruction of the passionate pursuer of fruitless “worthy” causes.

Love given also has the power to be a multiplier, a truth the compassionate virtue signallers would realise had they more knowledge and experience of history of western civilisation and valued the Judaeo/Christian contribution to it. Original sin has been replaced by original virtue.


Even truth has taken a battering in this post-truth world. For instance, how hard is it to work out whether the planet is warming and if we are to blame, or whether the failure of the climate to correlate with sophisticated computer modelling is a function of poor science, failed hypotheses, or hoary virtue signalling. Be assured that money, power and greed are contributors to the groundswell of opinion. Just ask scientists on the funding gravy train, Al Gore, John Hewson and others adept at riding financial waves, how they have surfed to prosperity on the backs of ordinary people, the outsiders without a say.

Most of us just want to pay a fair price for the essential service of reliable power. Simple as that! Bureaucratic and government interference has clouded the market on behalf of the global Gaia on the corruption merry-go-round: corrupted science that feeds corrupt global bureaucrats to transfer money and power to corrupt failed states. Go figure! One of the worst things about this state of play is the troublesome inversion of truth and virtue. Challengers (deniers) and countries/people trying to do the right the by the planet are pilloried as evil. They lose their jobs like Bob Carr and Professor Peter Ridd who dared to challenge scientists to prove their hypotheses. Where is the truth in that? If we want to conserve a clean planet, we might ask the violent, feral left whether they make their bed and dispose of their rubbish properly. Just for starters!


‘Love is love’, or so we were told during the lead up to the referendum on same sex marriage. Seems to me that the love professed does not extend to others who hold a more traditional view of marriage, as it should in the Christian tradition of “loving their neighbour as thyself”. Though SSM has since been embedded in legislation, latent hatred manages to find expression in attempts to demonise and neutralize any position adopted by “outsiders” holding true to known and proven traditions, by which they choose to live and raise their children. That is not to pass judgement on those who have successfully captured the words ‘gay’, ‘pride’ and ‘rainbow’ as brands – their choice should be respected, as should others who choose differently.  Get the pattern? Only one point of view (theirs) is allowed and without the context that might introduce reason. Lest we forget the horror of totalitarianism!

 Political correctness

Overlaying these distortions of language is political correctness fuelled by the grievance industry. I wonder what the WWI soldiers slogging it out in the trenches would think of today’s humourless snowflakes who are ever ready to be offended. Certainly pervasive PC has coerced us generally into becoming a more respectful, tolerant and welcoming society, careful to watch our Ps and Qs in discourse with others. There is no harm in that. However, like all good things taken too far, the virtue of intent becomes harmful under control of the emotionally incontinent disconnected from the real world.

Having achieved so much already, of necessity they must look for ever more ways to control the ignorant “outsiders” by creating make-work bureaucratic schemes that engorge the state.  “Unconscious bias” when recruiting; the decline in merit and reward for effort when diversity is the priority over competence; the amount of sugar, fat, drugs and alcohol consumed; how much exercise we do; adherence to, and payment for utopian “green” schemes; blame for inevitable colonisation 240 years too late, for which we must be forever sorry, unable to move forward to take advantage of 21st century benefits; forever ingratiating and apologetic to those self-invited immigrants who prefer to adhere to the laws and values of the country of origin rather than enter into the spirit of this country that has given them succour. Gratitude is one word that appears lost on all those sensitive souls demanding others to behave in a PC way. Nothing is perfect. Best if those trolls standing in judgement on we mere mortals showed some appreciation for how far we have come, practised the respect and tolerance they demand of others. Lest we forget how!

Sense of humour

Perhaps one of the most outstanding characteristics of the WWI diggers was their sense of humour.  In the grimmest of circumstances, they were able to make light of the pommy officers and the desperate situation as they worked together to get the job of winning our freedom done. Perhaps we need to conscript that spirit today, a century on, to spare us from the horrors of infinite regression into pervasive totalitarianism that has distorted our language and threatens to diminish our freedoms. Lest we forget!

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