The decline of perfectly good words

One rarely hears the word “harlot” today. We still hear the word “whore,” but mostly in a non-Biblical sense (“attention whore”). The implications of fornication and adultery are mostly gone. The decline from “sodomite” (Biblical term implying judgment) to “homosexual” (clinical term) to “gay” (phony euphemism) is now mirrored by the decline from whore/harlot (judgment) to today’s “prostitute” (clinical cf. the TNIV) to tomorrow’s euphemistic heir apparent: sex worker.

Sex worker. What a term! Norm MacDonald, whose vulgarity clouded clever satire, nailed the new morality back in 1997 (and yes, all but the punch line really happened):

In San Francisco last week, a birthday party for one of the area’s leading political figures, attended by the city’s Mayor, Sheriff, and members of the board of supervisors, culminated with a performance in which a dominatrix used a razor blade to carve a satanic star into the back of her male partner, then urinated on him, before finally sodomizing the man with a liquor bottle. After learning of the incident from press reports, San Franciscans expressed shock and outrage that the liquor bottle was not recycled.

Environmentalism is one thing, but the precincts of liberalism that glory in their irreverence and acceptance of degradation are way too precious to deal with anything implying condemnation. This gets the Tolerant crowd downright offended, angry, even violent. That’s not what they mean by free speech, pal. It turns out that the world has its own Puritan (impuritan?) streak.

“Sex worker” seems so bland, so inoffensive, so legal. And of course, the whole point is to muddy the waters and soften the blow. Consider:

How the faithful city has become a whore sex worker. -Isa. 1:21

“You have played the harlot sex worker with many lovers; and would you return to me?,” declares the Lord. -Jer 3:1

Not quite the same, eh?

Even we Christians cringe when hearing “harlot” and “whore” used in their Biblical sense. They aren’t meant for polite company any longer. But isn’t that another mark of our worldliness?

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