A Further Treatise on Words ‘n Stuff

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about linguistics and politics and how people are really bad at them right now.

Turns out it’s happening again. Or this was always happening. I’m inclined towards the latter, but anyway.

Today I’d like to have a rant about the principle arbitrators of sins against the English language, that vast community of people who insist on using it incorrectly day after day, the Americans. And let’s start by clarifying that though I am grouping the subject of my rant under the banner of “Americans” I do not mean all Americans, nor do I mean this is only an issue of Americans. It’s just that guys, right now, you’re kinda the worst.

At this point let me also acknowledge that this is absolute armchair activism. But then I know there’s nothing I can do about the situation in the States anyway, because despite their perpetual need to stick their nose into the affairs of others, the American public in general is absolutely not responsive to any commentary made by a non-American. Unless they are funny. Or Nigel Farage. Go figure.

The misuse of words which I take issue with today are some of the best-known words from the “Star-Spangled Banner”, possibly my least favourite national anthem ever. The words I take issue with are

“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”

I think the reasons why I take issue with these words are immediately apparent. It’s two words in particular. I’ll take them one by one.

We all know that the American populace are some of the least free people in the world, so lets just set that to one side for now.

One of the oft-cited rights of all American citizens is freedom of speech. It is what gives Donald Trump the right to spew his relentless idiocy across as many channels as he can pay for, and it’s what gives insane gun lobbyists the right to be heard.

But Colin Kaepernick, he can’t even make his point through silence without an immediate backlash.

In case you’re not up to date, Kaepernick is the Quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, and he has been all over the news lately for choosing to sit through the national anthem before his football games. He is doing so to protest the oppression of black people in the US.

And he’s free to do so, right? That’s a thing he’s allowed to do, because he’s a US citizen, so he can say and do what he likes so long as it’s not causing direct harm to others. I’m pretty sure those are the rules.

So looking at the above, you’d maybe say, “dunno what your problem is, there’s a brave American making use of his freedom. Just because he’s doing so by explicitly choosing to not sing those actual words doesn’t mean he isn’t free and brave”

And you, friend, would be right. Except that no-one seems to think he’s being brave. They just think he’s offending all of the brave souls that have gone out and died in the name of US freedom and bravery (and I have some views on the armed forces but we’ll get to that another time).

Some of the brave souls who have taken it upon themselves to serve the American people in maintaining their freedom (ostensibly) are the police force. Kaepernick’s protest is directed quite squarely at them, and so naturally they aren’t dead happy, but of course they are brave Americans and they recognise that the views of a single person shown through silent protest aren’t a threat, they are just airing their freedom.

Ah no. Wrong again. Because earlier today the good folks of the Santa Clara police stated that they will not send around 70 officers to work at 49ers games, because Kaepernick wore some socks with pigs in police hats, and now their pride is really bruised.


I’m sure it’s evident from my tone at this point that I take a very dim view of the reaction by the police force. It’s not exclusively because of their almost wilful ignorance of the true meanings of the words free and brave. I have issues aplenty to be frank. But for now, lets focus on the following ideas;

– A brave individual speaks out against an institution he believes is oppressive
– He is free to do so
– The institution in question are mandated to uphold freedom and safety of citizens
– They have chosen to do so, and are paid to do so
– Members of this institution choose to threaten the safety of the citizens, in order to protect their own pride
– The citizens choose to believe it is the brave, free individual who is threatening their safety

What are his threatening actions? Choosing not to sing the words “free” and “brave”.


Oh, and wearing a pair of socks.
If you need to attack someone for wearing a pair of socks, it really suggests you’ve got issues.

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