Hostile Word Takeover
Have you noticed how advertisers are turning nouns into verbs? “That’s why we science,” says Bayer. They’re using common verbs as nouns. Mazda urges us to “Find a more inspired drive.” Apple uses an adjective instead of an adverb, in their slogan, “Think different.”
These twists in usage get your attention, which is, of course, what the advertising designer has in mind. And they’re memorable.
But there’s a more sinister manipulation of words—the process of turning perfectly good, serviceable and clear descriptions into undesirable ones through pejorative campaigns.
“Liberal” became the horrible “L” word. Being liberal was made to be so dreadful that liberals abandoned the term and started calling themselves “progressives” instead.
Here in Laguna, apparently the words “village character” are in the process of being similarly treated. New planning commissioner Jorge Dubin wanted those words removed from the Downtown Specific Plan, saying the term “village character” was vague and couldn’t be defined. Since “village character” is the distinctive quality most of us love about Laguna, perhaps the council should ask applicants for the planning commission if they can describe “village character” to qualify for the job. A follow up question might be, “Do you think Laguna’s village character should be preserved?”
But then, even “preserve” is falling from favor these days, along with “protect” and “save.” Those who advocate them are accused of being afraid of change and against progress. Can’t preserving, protecting and saving be a part of progress? Is it so unwarranted to be skeptical of proposed changes when we see the unfortunate results of development in neighboring cities to which little skepticism seems to have been applied?
Then there’s Village Laguna, an organization that some blame for everything that’s wrong at City Hall. According to local mythology, Village Laguna is all powerful and bent on subjecting Lagunans to all manner of miseries. The last time we had a council with a majority of Village Laguna-recommended members was 1994. It would seem that in the 25 years since then, the non-Village Laguna councilmembers could have changed things substantially and to the critics’ satisfaction. That is assuming they really needed to be changed and that the council’s achievements back then—like negotiating the Laguna Canyon purchase and saving the Greenbelt—were really so terrible.
Some are trying to turn the public against the “activists.” As if keeping an eye on city hall and speaking out are evil endeavors. So much better are those in the “silent majority” who stay at home and whose opinions can be assumed to be whatever the anti-activist people in charge want them to be.
We can’t let our favorite descriptive words be taken over. That is a first step in losing control of our destiny.
Have you driven through Dana Point lately? Just seeing those new gigantic buildings lumbering through their downtown, block after block, makes me even more committed to being a Village Laguna activist, defending our village character, working to preserve, protect and save the Laguna Beach we love.
Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor and member of the City Council.
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