35 Duq. L. Rev. 81 (1996-1997)
The Art of Verbal Engineering

handle is hein.journals/duqu35 and id is 93 raw text is: The Art of Verbal Engineering

Rita L. Marker*
Wesley J. Smith**
If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.1
Many years ago, a little girl and her parents immigrated to the
United States from what was then Yugoslavia. A short time
later, the little girl started first grade even though she spoke lit-
tle English. She was anxious to learn and listened carefully,
picking up words and phrases.
One afternoon, the teacher called on the little girl, and told her
to go to the blackboard and draw light lines. Eagerly, she went
to the front of the classroom, picked up the chalk and began to
draw a barrel. When the teacher became angry and the little
girl's classmates laughed, the little girl realized that in English,
light did not mean barrel as it did in her native language.
The word that had sounded so familiar to her meant something
entirely different.
More than seventy-five years have passed since that day. The
once little girl married, raised a family, and is now a widow.
English has been the woman's main language for decades.
But, once again, familiar sounding words are having different
meanings. When she hears people speak of compassion, comfort,
care, dignity and rights, her understanding of those words differs
from theirs.
Sometimes the woman feels like she did while in the first
grade. Familiar terms are foreign to her.
The woman's misunderstanding of a word could now have far
greater significance than her confusion in the classroom so many
years ago. Then, it meant sadness and embarrassment for her.
Now, it could mean the difference between life and death. A
* Rita L. Marker is executive director of the International Anti-Euthanasia Task
Force and the author of Deadly Compassion (Wim. Morrow & Co.).
** Wesley J. Smith is a consumer advocate and author, and is an attorney for the
International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force.
1. GEORGE ORWELL, Politics and the English Language, 4 THE COLLECTED ESSAYS,
JouRNALIsM AND LErrERs OF GEORGE ORWELL 127, 137 (Sonie Orwell and Ian Angus eds.,
1968).

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