Dictionaries Can Be Unreliable

By McManus, John F. | The New American, November 4, 2013 | Go to article overview

Dictionaries Can Be Unreliable


McManus, John F., The New American


I saved a Wall Street Journal article from more than two years ago expecting to reference it at some future time in hopes that I might show fellow Americans how they were being led astray about important matters.

The article noted that the dictionary definition of the word "inflation" has changed. Prior to 2003, most dictionaries would note that inflation occurred when a country prints too much money. But in that year, Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary claimed inflation was "a continuing rise in the general price level." The older definition would have inflation fighters targeting government. The newer definition paints those who raise prices as the bad guys: the supermarket owners, fuel distributors, landlords, and anyone else who finds himself having to charge more for goods and services. Quite a difference!

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The 1957 unabridged Webster's dictionary gave the older meaning. It stated that inflation is "an increase in the amount of currency in circulation, resulting in a relatively sharp and sudden fall in its value and rise in prices." Based on that definition, increases in the money supply (running the printing presses overtime) would cause everyone's money to lose value, something easily noted by the rising prices of virtually everything. Finger-pointing occasioned by that understanding would be aimed at government, the only authorized operator of the printing presses.

Research undertaken by Justin Lahart, the author of the Wall Street Journal article, found that the 1864 Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language said of inflation that it is "undue expansion or increase, from over issue;--said of currency." That's correct. But Lahart then noted that by the mid-20th century, economists and ordinary consumers had begun referring to inflation as higher prices, not the cause of rising prices. He didn't add what should have been added: People are now using the word "inflation" the wrong way because the establishment opinion cartel dishonestly uses it the wrong way in order to serve the government's interests; changing the definition in dictionaries simply formalizes the deception.

Not only has the definition of inflation been changed, fostering ignorance of dishonest government action, the important difference between a republic (such as the one carefully created by America's Founders) and democracy (the form of government detested by those same Founders) has been smothered. In its place, the republic as the seat of a rule of law has been gradually undermined in favor of democracy's insistence on the primacy of a majority at the expense of law and the minority. …

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