News reports of frosted pop tart guns! Paper guns! Bubble guns! Pointing finger guns! Bang, bang, you’re dead! OMG! These days, everything’s a federal offense, so to speak, and no institution is ratcheting up the war-of-words like public education.
This winter, public school administrators in a California suburb attended a “safe school” threat assessment seminar sponsored by the local department of education and hosted by area sheriffs who identified the words that can hurt. Literally. And it’s not only individual words. It’s phrases and expressions so terrifying to the ear that they must be removed from the American dialogue to prevent potential search and arrest. Yes, the authorities have declared war on idiomatic classics like “I’ll get you,” “watch it” and “Don’t make me come up there.” Heaven forbid, you say “God will get you for that!”
Then there’s the worst of the words: “kill.” In today’s public school, saying any form of the word “kill” is contraband and when overheard, it is the duty of every responsible child and adult within “earshot” to run directly to the proper administrative authorities to anonymously report this violation because “failure to act = giving permission,” or more precisely, “The Secret Service says when a child indicates that he is thinking about committing a violent act, and an adult does not take decisive action to stop him, the child sees this as getting PERMISSION TO PROCEED,” according to the threat assessment plan.
And it doesn’t matter if your child didn’t say the dastardly word. If (s)/he is in the group with the person who said it, (s)/he’s good as guilty because (s)/he didn’t walk away to report the renegade word. So what’s the “upshot”? A first warning where only an appropriate school official (principal, counselor, or mental health staffer) advises the child of the infraction and of the education policy. The parent is then asked, “Do you have firearms in the home?” Don’t let it happen again, though. There is no second warning. Just a write up and a search of your home by law enforcement.
So, boys and girls, welcome to the “no humor” zone and if you are not in California, don’t worry, it’s already in the politically correct school district near you! It’s a place where you won’t be “killing anyone with kindness,” “killing time,” “killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” or “killing two birds with one stone.” Moms, you won’t leave the house “dressed to kill,” hum “Killing Me Softly,” drive by “road kill” and don’t even think about having a look that could “kill.” Dads, find a better way to describe your dread of honey-do chores because you won’t be saying “I’ll do it even if it kills me.” At the office, there’s no more “moving in for the kill” and don’t plan on making a “killing” in the stock market. Oh, and somebody, please call “Sit and Sleep.” We’ll have no more of that “you’re killing me, Larry!”
While we’re on this semantic rampage, it’s about time we come up with a better name for the popular beverage “punch”! And let’s institutionalize grandpa when he says, “I shot myself in the foot” and ship the teenager off to juvenile hall when he “jumps the gun” or tries to “bite the bullet” for his failed test score. You know, I just may report my surgeon because I’m going “under the knife.” Hey, should we now all fear Santa Claus coming to town because “you better watch out” is a veiled threat? And are you suicidal if you describe a pair of women’s pricy designer pumps as “to die for?” When someone has “shot down your idea” or “killed the lights” should they be arrested? When you walk around like a “ticking time bomb,” “blow up” emotionally, or argue intently with both “barrels loaded” are you now a terrorist? And what’s to become of your toddler and those “meltdowns”? Is it now our civic duty to file charges when someone “jumps down your throat,” “pulls your leg,” “knocks your socks off” or “drops a bomb on your head” or “chews you out?” Do we send a stand-up comic who “bombs” onstage to Gitmo? And, me-oh-my, what to do about something called the parent “trigger” law! It’s so overwhelming to think about all these words! Perhaps, my head will “explode.” Oh, “shoot”… can’t say that no more.
From A-Z, the American lexicon is laced with rich, juicy idioms, phrases that string together out-of-context words mumbled and jumbled to connote meaning but they are merely words, a lot of sound and no fury that signify one thing: if we allow ourselves to be sucked up into this insanity we will find ourselves being “driven up the wall” with ultimately “no leg to stand on” because what is happening in our country is exactly what Mrs. Obama promised of her husband in May, 2008 in his first bid for the presidency: “Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices; we are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.”
How do you change the conversation? Change the words. How do we change our traditions? Change their definitions.
Don’t like it? Then, sound the alarms but please, don’t “shoot” the messenger.