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Letters - Gay marriage debate is matter of 'language integrity'

A quote from the Mr. Lynn Hummel commentary of 17th October: "It may be true that only stuffed shirts and fuddy duddies whine about the direction of our language and common usage, but hear me out."

Yes, please "hear me out" (and call me whatever you may want). In my Linguistic Anthropology class at MSUM, the question of "language integrity" arises. Do things stay put in a language form and meaning, or is language meant to be malleable in a generally unrestricted sense? The apparent cultural preference in these so-called "post modern" times is that language probably has no essential integrity and it can be tampered with at will.

An example is the "gay marriage agenda" which clamors for a radical redefinition of a word in our English language that has a long, long tradition of having a very clear and straightforward meaning: one woman and one man in a formal union of sexual and emotional complementarity to take care of each other and to receive and to nurture newborn human life for future generations.

"Language integrity." What happens when personal preferences mount up significant agenda power and seek to de-construct or otherwise violate "language integrity?" We will have accepted a rationale for more tampering with language integrity. It may be that homosexual citizens feel an attraction to the same gender that may in some way be emotionally similar to what conventional "young lovers" feel as they are drawn to be together forever in formal marriage. But why do two men coming together demand the term "marriage" as the term that they shall use to identify their relationship? This is a clear violation of "language integrity."

If citizens will think this through, the logic of violating language integrity will assuredly lead to eventual chaos as everybody just helps himself or herself to whatever language redefinitions and alterations that may be most expedient to their immediate lives in the immediate moment.

What does red really mean on traffic lights? What does in-season or out-of-season really mean to deer hunters? What does signature forgery really mean in writing checks? What does perjury really mean in a court trial? What does abuse of some other person really mean? And the questions could go on and on...surely chaos prowls menacingly on this horizon. Is this the future that we desire? Will our common language be diminished down to have only whatever meaning is dictated by the self-serving victorious in contests of power?

The Minnesota Marriage Amendment provides an opportunity for the citizens of our state to declare their willingness (or unwillingness) to give honor to "language integrity." We must think this through.

-- Donald Tobkin, Detroit Lakes