Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ My author website is here: www.terikanefield.com/ Apr. 17, 2019 1 min read

(Thread) Reclaiming words like “socialist” and “liberal”

Ruth, we can distance ourselves from the word—but one problem with that is that members of the Democratic Party, like AOC, call themselves Democratic Socialists, and they're not going to stop.

Another problem . . .

1/ . . with distancing ourselves from “socialism” is that any word we come up with, the right wing machine will find a way to vilify.

A better strategy is to own, reclaim, and reshape the word.

Words change their meaning over time, evolving with popular usage.

2/ Linguists call it a semantic shift.

Sometimes the changes happen quickly. One year ago, I never thought I’d use the word “mute” this way: “She annoyed me, so I muted her."


Look what happened to the word “liberal.”

3/ I remember the first time I heard “liberal” used as a pejorative. George H.W. Bush said “liberal” in the tone someone might say “ax murderer.”

I was shocked. I'd always used it in the dictionary sense of open minded👇

4/ I use "liberal democracy" like this👇 (naive me! I assumed everyone would agree it's good)

Someone asked me once why I use “liberal” when it’s such an off-putting word.

I use it to reclaim the word: “Yes, I am liberal: I am open minded and value freedom. What about you?”

5/ With the word socialism, it won’t be so easy.

As I learned the word, it was about taking care of the vulnerable members of society, and that socialist believe we all have that duty.

I just checked a few dictionaries, and they define socialism very similarly to communism🤦‍♀️

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