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What Are They Talking About?

Sep 9, 2008
Each year new words are added to the dictionary. New words from the 40's were A-bomb, spaceship and TV. New words from the 50's were computerize, desegregate and junk mail. The 60's gave us cable television, genetic code and space shuttle, while the 70's gave us gas-guzzler, infomercial and passive smoking. Automatic teller machine, compact disc and virtual reality were new dictionary entries in the 80's and carjacking, flex dollars and Web site were new in the 90's. The new words of each decade tell us about that time. Staycation will be one of the new words for this decade, but hopefully a word that means an at-home vacation due to a poor economy won't have staying power. Unfortunately, the misuse of the letter "O" has staying power.

O is the fifteenth letter of the alphabet; but in spite of learning that in first grade, many people say O instead of zero when saying numbers. This is especially frustrating when numbers people, like telephone operators and bank tellers, do it. Of course, it's even more frustrating when I do it Although O and zero aren't synonyms, they're being used that way - which makes them "sinomyms".

The U.S. government has used the word "jihadist" to describe terrorists. In fact, since September 11, 2001 the government has repeatedly equated jihadist with "Islamic extremist". Because of the misuse of that word, most Americans don't know jihad is a positive word in the Islamic world. A jihad is similar to a religious duty. It's an internal struggle to become a better person. Now the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have asked employees not to use Islamic references when condemning terrorist attacks. Now it seems the U.S. government has embarked on its own jihad.

When Muslims embark on buying a house, they can't get a mortgage. Islamic law forbids charging interest in the belief it exploits people. However, making a profit is allowed. When Khalid Aqbal bought a $300,000 condo in Northern Virginia, he put down $30,000; and an Islamic finance company provided the rest. Instead of paying an interest-bearing mortgage, Aqbal will pay rent until he buys out the company's share. How does the finance company make money? It charges Aqbal a fee for exclusive use of the house. The fee is considered profit - not interest. This is what's known as "creative speak", which seems to be spoken in every language.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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