Thursday, 11 December 2014

Words in vogue: reform

"Reform" used to mean a change which was an improvement. The SOED [Shorter Oxford English Dictionary] lists several variations on this, many of them with quite a strong sense that a wrong is being put right, an abuse is being corrected, malpractice is being rectified, &c.

Perhaps "reform" still does have this meaning, and its current apparent frequent misuse is due to the fact that one person's reform is sometimes another's retrograde step. Whatever the reason, it seems to be being used widely in contexts in which opinion is not supposed to be being expressed. The use of the word "reform" implies that whatever change is being discussed is a change for the better (and, therefore, that the speaker supports the change). Something to remember next time you hear a BBC reporter discussing "necessary reforms".

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