In the name of all that is sacred …
… would the teeming, festering ranks of both the apparently overeducated elite and the slightly more excusable hoi polloi STOP using the term “empathy” like so many obsessive, automated Monkey-See-Monkey-Do androids when, in fact, the contents and contexts of their verbal execrations clearly indicate that they should employ the term “sympathy” instead?
To feel “empathy” for another human being means that you—yourself!—have experienced and endured the same exact circumstance and situation as the person for whom you are claiming to ooze great steaming cauldron-clouds of empathy.
For example, if your best friend is hospitalized after suffering a debilitating car accident, you can only claim to feel genuine empathy for that friend if you, too, have suffered in a debilitating car accident. If you have not been the victim of a debilitating car accident yourself, then you can only offer sympathy for your friend—you have not personally experienced an automobile crash, but possessed of reasonably functioning synapses, you can, at best, imagine the harrowing nature of such a scenario and therefore sympathize.
For a more general example, if a particular community or group of people has been traumatized to its very core by the horror of a mass-shooting, bubble-brained politicians calling for “all Americans to show empathy for” such unfortunate individuals is incorrect in a blatant way and utterly macabre by unintentional implication.
To wit, demanding “empathy” from all people on behalf of massacre-victims presupposes that all aforementioned empathizers have been (or must become) massacre-victims, as well. How nice.
If a lady suffers a natal miscarriage, a man cannot ever “empathize” with her 🙄; nor can another woman who has not suffered a miscarriage herself. Sympathy, however, can be rendered by all with due discretion.
Compassion. Understanding. Sympathy. These are perfectly sturdy, tried-and-true words most appropriate to combat the rampant plague of hive-minded logorrhea afflicting the general populace, the media, our rancid leadership, and even the decrepit halls of academe, compelling them to chant the word “empathy” over and over and over again like sorcerers murmuring in the fetid dark, or transcendental boobs squatting in Bliss-circles at some fucking spirit-spa.
Indeed, buzzwords and neologisms have played a crucial role from ancient times in the proper building and formation of a language, but even the most ingeniously contrived and well-engineered neologisms have never been allowed immediate, easy access into any enduring lexicon; these sorts of terms have been subjected to scrutiny and often hundreds of years of natural cultural remaindering to prove that they not only have withstood the test of time, but that they did not spring from common vulgarities unworthy of a calibrated linguistic system, that they have added to the wonder of language as determined by stringent and accepted parameters. It’s like math, chickens. Rules are in place for life-and-death reasons. For instance, the innocent and well-intentioned use of improper or non-canonical dialect terms and casual ghetto phrases while negotiating peace treaties have gotten many a speaker’s head sliced off on the spot throughout history. If Genghis Khan or Attila or Alexander were still around, they’d confirm this. With swords.
The rubric and bedrock of the beautiful English language was built painstakingly over tempestuous ages by linguists and scientific, lexicographic geniuses into a glorious, colossal testament to human cultural precision, wisdom, and uncompromising achievement. That shining standard now stands upon the edge of a knife—stray but a little [more] and it will fail, to the ruin of all. But hope remains, while the company is true. And majestic and marvelous our English language remains, for the moment. Love and uphold science? Then love English. It’s a science, too.
Moreover, if our own words have been misused, misconstrued, twisted, and mangled by others—and of course this has happened to everyone—then, lo and behold! I do believe we can show some goddamned EMPATHY for English. Imagine that.
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