Ever seen those lists of over-used words? Terms deemed to be losing their oomph or being misused get identified, published, and hopefully (according to the list authors) the terms become less used.
Thinking specifically now, I reckon there are some terms related to pro-lifeness that could go on such a list. It’s the least we can do.
In no particular order, and said by informed and uninformed people, some terms I think would make sense being thrown out are…
“Bringing into the world”
This one makes it sound like there is an alternate universe we can teleport things from if we so choose. Of course, the womb (and the human inside) is in the world already. The only situation this term really applies to is a hypothetical child before becoming pregnant. Which leads me to the foll0wing:
But what actually IS it?
It used to be pretty common to see a ticket advertised as ‘a half’ (for kids) instead of ‘a full’ (for adults). Sure, some people look down on kids but I’m not sure if that’s where the term originated from for when someone says “I’m 1-and-a-half” when pregnant (although I’ve only heard this a handful of times in my life). I prefer the term “eating for 2 now” which I’ve heard a bit more often – which makes me smile and gives me hope for interesting language!
“It’s a foetus, not a human”
But language isn’t always mutually exclusive. And the term ‘foetus’ itself is a very human term (obviously for human offspring, not pregnant whales). Nevertheless, it would be cool if I ever heard someone say “foetal human” instead. But that sounds clunky – no-one would say ‘adult human/adolescent human’ etc. except maybe in a textbook. I guess it would just be coming up with a term to counter-act a term that’s been twisted to mean something that was never in scope.
Unfortunately in English, there is little scope for referring to something personal with no known sex as something other than ‘it’. I would dearly love to call growing little humans some nice neat little word like ‘he’ or ‘she’ (before I know the sex), but it doesn’t exist! In French, sexless objects get referred to as ‘il’ (he) or ‘elle’ (she). Oh well, in the meantime, there are many news stories (when the context is nothing to do with abortion) that use the term ‘unborn baby’ which makes a lot of sense in the interim.
Calling people a condition
Now, I don’t actually mind being called a ‘diabetic’ – although I know some people much prefer PWD (person with diabetes). I don’t feel like I’m being dehumanised, but my condition isn’t particularly noticeable all the time. I think there is a particular issue with some conditions wherein people begin to identify the condition with the person (I saw a great interview where a father corrected a reporter referring to his Downs Syndrome daughter – he preferred “daughter with Downs Syndrome” which is particularly person-affirming). When it comes to terms that really are dehumanising either implicitly or explicitly (eg calling a human a “vegetable”), we could do with changing the language if we see an opportunity to.
Last of all, one term I’d like to see getting more (or at least as much) airplay compared with substitutes is:
I think this term actually engages the issue better (from both sides). It’s an accurate, non-emotive term (i.e. less likely for people to shut down into their mind bunkers) and is intuitive. What is unjust killing? Discuss. There is common ground on this.
Feel free to add good suggestions in the comments!