When John McWhorter tells us liberals, today on TNR.com, to give up our fixation with the term, it is not clear if he is speaking as a linguist, a political pundit, or, increasingly fashionable these days, both. In any case, I could not disagree more.
Words change their meaning, as McWhorter rightly points out; one of my favorites is the persistent use of the term "condescend" in Jane Austen, where it is clearly meant as a compliment. But words do not change their meaning through acts of God. Their meanings change because we change them. This, I dare say, is precisely why McWhorter took to this site to make his argument. He was not merely announcing that the old meaning of liberal is now pass