Thursday, February 23, 2006

Not less safe.

We are not "less safe" now than we were on September 11. I say that not because I think we are safer but because I think the state of diminished safety is not best described by the words "less safe."

If the attacks of September 11 demonstrated our vulnerability, and we consider that situation to have deteriorated since, then the way to say that is to refer to us as "more vulnerable." Saying instead that we are "less safe" implies that we are safe, just not as much. Were we safe on September 11? If so, then maybe we really are still safe, but not as much. If not, I don't see a good way to describe a more vulnerable state with the word "safe" in it anywhere.

This is blatant Newspeak. Someone saying "less safe" is unwilling to admit vulnerability. The word has been eliminated. They could do almost as well saying "more unsafe" (or "plusunsafe"), but "less safe" is more misleading. It has the word we want to hear—safe—unfettered by prefixes and the idea that our safety is anything other than pure.

I'm not sure how this came be such a pet peeve that I'm now writing what amounts to a grammar flame—unprovoked, even. Nevertheless it grates on me even more than when people misspell "millennium" (a pet peeve with an actual story behind it).
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