First, I need to say that I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to my blog; but, I want you to know that I have thought of my blog most days. Life does get in my way. There are so many new ventures I am pursuing where all the roads lead back to my loves of writing and teaching; so, bare with me during the lean times, and I shall unveil all as we travel this journey together.
I have mentioned before that I tutor a young man with autism. We have been together now for nearly a year, and as I get to know him more, he is amazing. We talk about so many topics and explore so many towns, cities, and countries we have both experienced. He can give me dates of discoveries — such as, when we were talking about King Tut, he gave me the date of 1922, telling me that was when King Tut’s burial chamber was discovered. He continued to inform me that the display was now at the museum in Cairo, Egypt.
I tutor him in reading and math, emphasizing more math than reading. The reading outside of his studies gravitate towards ghost stories and history. He really likes history, especially stories about our presidents. So, the other day while we were talking about the presidents, he asked me, “What does it mean to execute the duties of the office of the President of the United State of America?” I have learned during the past year that he usually knows the answer to his questions, so I asked him what it meant. He gave me an example of duty as taking care of the people, but he did not know the definition of the word “execute”. Actually, the word threw me for a loop.
I told him the word meant “to do” (in its simplest form), but it also means to kill, to put to death. It seems to me that I am so familiar with the latter definition — to put to death, that I totally forgot about the original #1 definition (according to Webster) — “to follow out or carry out; do; perform; fulfill”. It seems to me that words are losing their definitions as we substitute the popular connotation of the word. We could execute a musical recital, or we could perform a musical recital, or we could play a musical piece at a recital. How often do we hear or see the word “execute” in today’s language as at pertains to fulfillment or performance, but certainly, we hear or see the word as a “mass execution-style killing” or “sentenced to death by execution”.
You could argue that execute/performance is similar to execute/put to death because both are a fulfillment, but execute/put to death is negative in connotation, and execute/performance is an action that is not necessarily negative. There is a world of difference in what the word means. One is to create/do; the other is to get rid of.
There’s a bit more to this story. The next morning, I was listening to the news on the radio when the broadcaster said that someone had to be executed from the car when that person was in an accident. Okay, I said to myself, is there another meaning to this forgotten word? This time I had to refer to Webster. No. Wrong word — the broadcaster probably meant the person had to be extracted (to pull out) or extricated (disentangled) from the car. Whew! I thought I was really forgetting those definitions.
What does all this mean? To me, it means that our language is ever-changing as we push the popular connotation of the word to the front and shelf the original definition. I know that the next time I hear “execute” I will see the word as a fulfillment of action rather than the death of an individual or individuals. I wonder if it will be difficult to change my thought process?