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Jesse Jackson

'Minoritized:' a violent word

'Minoritized:' a violent word

Have you ever wondered how words are born? As a writer who has thumbed his fair share of thesauri, I am surprised almost daily by the kinds of words that we accept into the American lexicon. Take the word “lickspittle.” Who in their right mind thought that one up?

“Lickspittle” describes a person who is excessively obsequious — so sycophantic, the word suggests, that the subject displays a willingness to lick up the spit of the person they serve. Just thinking about the word is like fork tines scrapping down a chalkboard’s surface for me. Imagine the first person to use “lickspittle” in mixed company. Yuck.

Few of us get to have a say in which words are valorized. We read or...