Would you rather belong to the “Apple Dumpling Gang” or the “Crypts”? The connotation of the word gang reaches “hit an all time low” in the 1990’s. We envision today’s gang members as drug lords who kill each other on street corners. Society rejects and imprisons them. Once members of a “gang” simply shared common interests and enjoyed social acceptance, much as members of a club today. Many pairs of words have experienced a similar disagreement in connotation throughout the years.
The mind-set of a revolutionary thinks he/she must change a horrific aspect of society by forcing a break-down in government. In the mind of a terrorist he/she must alter an aspect of society he deplores in society by bombings, hijackings, and assassinations. The United States’ history makes us sympathetic to revolutionaries because the war between America and the British. No books refer to it as the American Terrorism because terrorism connotes anarchy and a lack of social structure. The actual difference in strategy between the two groups may appear more gentle, however, they both kill.
Regarding the words “gang” and “club” only one denotes violence. The dictionary defines gang as, “A group of persons working together; a group of persons having informal and usual close social relations.” The definition of a club reads as follows, “An association of persons for some common object usually jointly supported and meeting periodically.” Hidden beneath each definition, lies a more subjective, personal definition lodged in each of our minds. Why must society negatively characterize gangs and positively characterize clubs? We now associate the word “gang” with group of juvenile delinquents who create disturbances with violence and misconduct. Commonly, society associates, the word “club” with a positive environment where young people can have positive role models in their lives who support them. Unfortunately gangs correspond with corruption and clubs equate with honor. Maybe we can solve the gang problem by getting them to join clubs.
Yet another combination of words similarly defined, yet with a very different application in everyday life include “religion” and “cult.” Every religion on Earth has at one time had the status of a cult, According to Webester’s dictionary a cult has one major characteristic, “A system of religious belief and ritual.” A religion too has a single distinct quality, “Commitment or devotion to a deity, faith or observance.” Unfortunate, In today’s world, a cult will send you to eternal damnation while religion will save you from it. With deeper analysis, one might contrive that religion controls the masses about people with propaganda and messages of Satan whereas cults teach the true voice of God that evade many people who remain unaware of the desired spiritual effects.
Thus, many pairs of words like “gang and club” and “religion and cult” that once possessed similar meanings have experienced a divergence in actual application. One way to more accurately defines words might involve publishing new dictionaries for each year, so libraries would discard superseded editors. Dictionaries could be created for people of different regions, different backgrounds, different philosophies, different occupations, and different biases. Could we each publish our own dictionaries perhaps?