Monday, April 8, 2024

A word that means something

The time came, quite a few years ago, when the foreign language department in my high school decided to call themselves the "world" languages department. I stopped by their office to tell my colleagues there that the only "world language" I could think of was Esperanto. They did not seem amused. Today, Kevin Williamson made a similar point:
It is remarkable to me that so many professional writers will go to such lengths to avoid the perfectly respectable word “foreign.” E.g., Jim Newell writing in Slate about the proposal to rename Dulles Airport for Donald Trump, who never flies commercial.
In a way, it could be a perfect passing of the torch. The current namesake, John Foster Dulles, worked to overthrow international governments; his would-be successor, the domestic one.
That’s a good line—clever.

But there are no “international governments” that can be overthrown—there are “foreign governments” that can. International things are things that are between nations, that involve more than one nation: international agreements, international travel, international trade, etc.

The government of Germany isn’t international (not in this century, anyway!)—it’s just German, and foreign. Germans are foreign to Americans, and Americans are foreign to the Germans. ....

Yes, people sometimes spit foreign as invective. But it is a word that means something, and what it means is not international. Like alien and illegal alien, we need a term for the thing we are talking about, and it is better if that term is a word or words that actually say what they are meant to mean.

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