What's in a word?


Sir, – I am disappointed by the unfair criticism of the use of everyday descriptive words such as “seniors” and “elderly” (“Casual ageism found in media and civic language undermines us all”, Health + Family, June 20th).

Why is it that we spend so much time acting as word police, second-guessing the attitudes behind the use of certain words, and trying to find new alternatives for these supposedly offensive words?

How can referring to older people as seniors possibly be incorrect?

The word senior derives from the Latin word senex, an old man. It is not a critical or judgemental word. It is simply a description.

Likewise the word “elderly” is a factual description and makes no judgment.

If it is somehow improper to describe an old person as old, senior or elderly, will the word police next prevent us from referring to our offspring as children?

If we are obliged to replace these words with words that are more politically correct, in 20 years the word police will develop another dislike to the newer words and will want to replace them again.

It is an unnecessary cycle of change that pointlessly consumes time and energy that would be better spent dealing with real issues. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.