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    Humpty Dumpty & the new words

    The following article by Rabbi Raymond Apple originally appeared on the Arutz Sheva website on 13 January 2018.

    Language has come a cropper.

    Humpty Dumpty blithely says, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to.”

    Today Humptyism has come alive.

    Just think of words in today’s vocabulary like freedom, love, justice, truth and peace. Each has had its meaning so twisted that even Humpty would hardly recognise it.


    The process started with “liberation”. A student group once boasted, “We liberated a case of beer”.

    Next to change was “freedom”. People claimed to be freedom fighters – how inspiring, how exciting – but after gaining their freedom they tyrannised others.

    People wanted to be free to breathe the air, but now there were new forms of pollution.


    People dream of quick-fix peace which says, divide a territory into two and hey-presto you have peace! Sheer imagination!

    Wars begin in the minds of men. So does peace. Conflicts do not suddenly disappear with signed papers and photo opportunities but when both sides co-operate on practical issues and find they’re both better off. Small steps gradually add up to peace without fanfares.

    Two-State solutions are not the answer.


    Love is the deepest of emotions. It commits you with your whole being.

    But somehow the word has moved out of the norm. A love-child is now a child born out of wedlock.

    The implication is that when married couple have a child, it’s not a love child. The implication is that the parents aren’t bound by love: whatever their intimacy is, it isn’t love. If they produce a child some other adjective applies, but not “Love”. Strange.


    Society depends on everyone having a place and rights. The legal system is there is protect this principle.

    But “I want justice!” doesn’t necessarily mean “I want to be treated fairly in the balance of things!” It means “I want what’s good for me and if you get hurt in the process, go fight for yourself!”

    That’s not justice: it’s selfishness.


    Alternative facts aren’t a new invention. They started in Adam’s time. Each side had a different version of the facts. Varying influences were at work.

    It’s a problem when neither side has the nerve to find the real truth and to stick to it even if it works to their detriment. The problem gets worse when a person deliberately twists the truth.


    Once upon a time roughly half the population were boys and half were girls, but these days you can’t say, “Boys will be boys”. Some boys believe that deep down they are girls and vice-versa.

    Sometimes it’s just play-acting as in old-time pantomimes. Sometimes it’s a genuine problem.

    Why do old-time norms have to be discarded? Why must society invent new standards?


    Isn’t it interesting how people who want other kinds of relationships keep using “marriage” terminology?

    Believers in traditional marriage still maintain that the traditional definitions are the best, providing a balance between male and female, a safe sense of commitment, the setting for continuity of the human species.


    With the coming of modernity, man believed that no-one needed God any more. Then, as Robert Gordis says, “First God was everything and man was nothing. Now man was everything and God was nothing. Suddenly man discovered that he could do everything, but he himself was nothing. Now God is nothing and man is nothing”.

    God has been reduced to a swear-word – and the world may not survive.


    There’s a new kid on the block – “martyrdom”. Real martyrs sacrificed their lives, but the new martyrdom is a swooping sword that mows down its victims indiscriminately.

    That’s not martyrdom, it’s murder: not sacrifice but sadism.

    Some “martyrs” do it for a heavenly handout. The new martyrs claim to be acting for God. Can’t they say, “We all have our own God, and if I love my God surely you have the same right to love yours”?

    True belief comes from conviction, not compulsion – from faith, not force. Some of the Holocaust perpetrators rang church bells on Sunday and sang hymns. In theory they professed love of God – but love of God’s children? They don’t seem to have asked themselves how, since Jesus was Jewish, they could kill him in every murder of a Jew.

    Words keep changing for the worse. Humpty Dumpty might tell us to eat our words.

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