Is there anywhere where this stuff is not currently being debated ? Browsing the BBC “Word of Mouth” message board – where typically, “Disgusted of Dorchester deplores the demise of the English language” – I find a thread debating the political motives of words used to describe Richard Reid’s cemtex-filled shoes. [Quote] Weapons of Mass Destruction came into popular usage to mean chemical/biological/nuclear weapons at just the same time as the US was re-writing its anti-terrorism laws, and its administration was trying to convince the populace of a conspiracy between America’s disparate enemies. [Unquote]
How can anyone contemplate unravelling words, from meaning, from intent, from reasoning – from conspiracy and paranoia ?
The fact that a perfectly tight, reasoned defintion could easily be arrived at – something along the lines of a weapon whose existence could not be justified based on its intended use against a bounded target – is irrelevant to the fact that this is a political debate, not an etymological one – and it always is. Every utterance has intent.