Lael Ewy

Language commentator

Lael Ewy is a co-founder and editor of EastWesterly Review, a journal of literary satire at www.postmodernvillage.com and a writer whose work has appeared in such venues as Denver Quarterly, New Orleans Review, and has been anthologized in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh.

He provided commentary for the Wichita City Paper and journalism for Naked City.

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of General Studies from Wichita State. Lael supports his writing and reading habits as a lecturer in English at WSU and as a peer educator at WSU's Center for Community Support and Research.

He runs an unaccredited Volvo hospice and is the current caretaker of a family heirloom, a 1965 Ford Mustang.

For fun he wrestles philosophy and literary theory.

Ways To Connect

OnWords: Hey You Guys!

Feb 10, 2015
wikipedia.org

I have been challenged by several people to comment on the use of the word “guys” as a general form of address. The main complaint goes something like this: “What if we're not all guys, guys?”

And I get it: the use of a gendered generalization when a non-gendered one would be more appropriate rubs against some hard-won principles. But “guys” is such a trite word that it seems like an unworthy target.

After all, the title sequence of The Electric Company on PBS opened with a woman yelling, “Hey you guuuuys!” And that was over 40 years ago.

Office Space / 20th Century Fox

Purists can’t stand the use of the word “office” as a verb, as in a major NPR underwriter using the tag line “the smart way to office.”

On one hand, I don’t blame them. This sort of what we might call “verbing” stinks of all the absurdities promoted by management culture with its disdain for, if not contempt of, regular language and plain speech. But looking a bit deeper, “to office” hints at the way work has changed over the past 50 years.

opensource.com, flickr Creative Commons

“Reform” is another word of cavernous uncertainty into which falls many a good idea, never to return.

On its face, we should expect anything that’s reformed to look different when we’re done but not be fundamentally different. To reform a thing is, after all, not to transform it.

But sometimes the vagueness of “reform” is used so as not to scare those who are potentially harmed by the details of systemic change.

“Compromise” was the buzzword of the 2014 mid-term elections. The absolute failure of the two major parties to show any progress toward compromise should not surprise us, though.

“Compromise” is one of those words that seems general but is incredibly sensitive to context. Whether we view compromise as a higher good or as unprincipled evil depends entirely on what we want to achieve—and on who is doing the compromising.

Adam Gerard, flickr Creative Commons

The term “political correctness” arose over twenty years ago from the Pentagon’s attempt to package war as cleanly as possible--think “collateral damage” instead of “civilian deaths.” It’s largely been kept alive by conservatives angry at liberal overreach and liberal free speech activists who feel constrained by their own tribe.

Meh.

Dec 4, 2014
Ken Murphy, flickr Creative Commons

The word “meh” may be the perfect combination of resignation and ennui.

Only a culture so utterly saturated in mediocrity could come up with a term that, in one syllable, expresses both the feeling of being confronted with that mediocrity and the fatigue of having to put up with it.

I guess we wouldn’t even need “meh” if our opinions about stupid, formulaic movies; mind-numbing occupations; and indifferent products and services weren’t so frequently polled.

Oberazzi / flickr Creative Commons

While I prefer to let language run its course, I get upset when people misuse the phrase “it begs the question.”

Using “it begs the question” creates confusion rather than clarity and tames an otherwise powerful tool of argument.

The most common use of “it begs the question” is actually its misuse. A journalist or pundit will unthinkingly analyze some minor bit of scandal and say “it begs the question” when he really means “it brings up the question.”

On Words: Civil Discourse

Nov 4, 2014
U.C. Berkeley

Recently, U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has come under fire for using the 50th anniversary of the campus free speech movement as a call for “civil discourse.” 

So, I’m on Facebook the other day, where all meaningful discussion happens, and I run across several friends discussing why so many people start sentences with the word “so.”

Explaining Isn't Excusing

Sep 23, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

Though we often use them together, an explanation is not an excuse.

An explanation can be used when we give evidence for an excuse, but an excuse is about culpability, which is determined by a set of values, values that can exist outside of a set of facts. An explanation, in contrast, comes about by the application of a set of principles to a set of facts.

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