I am a wordsmith who prides himself on staying abreast of new phrases or descriptions for things, and in recently preparing an article about a charity event, I encountered an interesting one: “food insecurity.”
Now, on the surface, this can be a confusing term.
I mean, does food insecurity occur when potatoes and artichokes are afraid to grow because they might be targeted by insects, plowed under by a tractor and eventually wind up on someone’s plate? Or are vegetables, fruits and cans of sardines having trouble coming to grips with their inner feelings and who they really are?
Does food insecurity refer to that uncomfortable feeling you get in the pit of your stomach after consuming one too many spicy burritos?
Or is it a type of phobia to identify those who are wary of venturing into restaurants or supermarkets?
Well, as I would learn, food insecurity, of course, is hunger, plain and simple. The official definition of that phrase is “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” In other words (or word), hunger.
What puzzles me is why someone felt so compelled to invent a new phrase for being hungry, particularly since that’s what the human mind eventually breaks it down to after one’s ears hear the term food insecurity.
And in the real world, what are you going to pay attention to most: A guy who runs up and yells, “Help me, I’m starving to death!” or one who says “Help me, I’m suffering from food insecurity?”
I would suspect that at the heart of all this is the usual suspect, our wonderful politically correct movement which is always endeavoring to invent new descriptions for various conditions or people in society.
The goal seems to be trying to abandon traditional language in order to make everything sound much less severe than it really is — which irritates me because I must use that extra mental process to cut through the evasive wording to get to the heart of the matter.
And that can be avoided by just saying hunger in the first place.
All this apparently started when somebody had the bright idea to substitute the word “issue” for “problem.”
You hear it all the time, that he or she has issues, or I have an issue with my cell-phone service. But when you come right down to it, we’re talking about problems — with the real “issue” being those people who can’t call a spade a spade and think they must invent a new word for problems.
If your car begins rolling down a hill toward a tree with no one behind the wheel, is the outcome going to be any less serious if you call it an issue rather than a problem?
There are other examples of this ridiculous phenomenon, as unearthed by my ever-reliable research team, Curious George and Associates, such as:
• Not saying a group of people are acting like wild Indians — instead they are out of control.
• Refraining from calling someone the black sheep of their family — referring to such an individual as an outcast is deemed more appropriate.
• Not using the term blacklisted — banned is the preferred politically correct term.
• Choosing a different way to describe people as uneducated — we are told that it’s better to say they lack a formal education (even though some of the smartest people I have ever known didn’t even graduate from high school).
• You mustn’t say that folks are manning an office, but staffing it instead.
• And, as we all know by now, a garbage man is actually a sanitation engineer and a stewardess a flight attendant.
In weighing whether to use such terminology in their daily lives in lieu of tried-and-true wording, one must decide between what is appropriate vs. what is utter nonsense.
I definitely can understand the need to avoid terms that might be deemed disrespectful to certain ethnic groups or minorities, but a new phrase for hunger? Come on!
How does saying that a person is hungry translate to being offensive or otherwise putting him or her in a bad light to the point we have to call someone food-insecure instead? Starvation is something that can affect people of all persuasions.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was yet another by-product of a trend we see nowadays in which no one is to be judged for their actions (including possibly being too lazy to work and thus becoming food-insecure), everyone is treated with kid gloves and anything goes.
However, I for one have an “issue” with such BS.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.