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Troublesome words – refusenik

31 Aug
Troublesome words – refusenik

I try not to be an over-prescriptive fuss-pot when it comes to language,* believing the important thing is clarity and accepting things change with them, while obviously, as I do here, trying to share examples where, say, there are two different words that mean subtly different things and thus should be retained and used. I know people get very cross about the use of words like “decimate”, and when I get a little bit cross about things, as with swathe or swath a while ago, I try to remember to make a point of looking them up and finding out whether our big dictionary sources back me up, or not!

Here is a (perhaps more obscure) case in point. I keep hearing the word refusenik being used to describe someone who is actively refusing to do something, usually to prove a point or in some form of protest. School uniform refuseniks and the like. I knew the term in its original meaning, which is the highly specific one describing Jewish people in the former Soviet Union who were refused to be allowed to emigrate to Israel. I kind of expanded this in my mind to incorporate all people whose exit from a place is refused. The emphasis here is on the fact that they are being refused exit – someone else is doing the refusing and they are the passive objects of the refusal (grammatically speaking).

But I checked my sources, and there we are: a refusenik is perfectly able to simultaneously be someone who refuses to do something out of principle and someone who is refused exit.

** Did you notice the at least three rules I have broken in this post to prove my point about not being fussy?

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 31, 2017 in Be careful, Language use, Writing

 

Tags: , ,

3 responses to “Troublesome words – refusenik

  1. Gillian Rose

    August 31, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    You split an infinitive! I’ll give others a chance to name the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

     
  2. Don Massenzio

    September 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio.

    Liked by 1 person

     

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