In the last two years, I've graded a LOT of undergraduate assignments, and I noticed something I think may point toward a change in progress. Kids keep misusing discriminate.
...or so I thought.
The thing is, they keep making the same mistake. And it's a mistake I had seen in grading for a number of classes over the last few years. And I'm starting to think it might not be a mistake.
Instead of saying "he discriminated against me," for instance, they'll say "he discriminated me." They seem not to have the older reading of discriminate at all, so I'm not sure to what extent something like "he could not be discriminated from the background" meaning distinguished from here, would be used or understood by teenagers now.
A quick search reveals it's quite common on Twitter and other social media, with examples like:
- If you flagrantly discriminate me, don't think that will deter any part of who I am. All it does is make me more determined
- I always wonder y do ppl discriminate me about being myself
- If u discriminate me over my sex & deprive me of my dignity & rights, fuck yes I'll sue your ass
- he was mad she discriminated me
- she didn't diss me.but indirectly discriminated me
And of course it's not just first person:
- Trump discriminated her
- obama hates him since he racially discriminated him
- you yourself discriminated them
And it can be passivized, and occur in all tenses:
- I was discriminated on the basis of my gender once
- its sad because everyone with colour will be discriminated with time if trump wins
- If Portia was being discriminated because of her gender then all the insults thrown would be focused on that
- I never knew Asian gays had been discriminated before
- wish I could pull the race card when my career is flopping but I can't bc im white yet my family had been discriminated for being Russian
The most interesting thing to me is that people now will use "against" as well, but to mean different things, and it doesn't seem settled what they want it to mean:
- My height never discriminated me against anything
- basically your staff discriminated me against an able bodied person.
- you couldn't handle my opinion so you discriminated me against my age and gender
It sounds like whereas my generation and older would say "he discriminated against her because she is female (and he's sexist)" people are now likely to say "he discriminated her against being a woman."
Personally, I have a hard time parsing this structure -- my first inclination is to read "he discriminated her against being a woman" as trying to mean something like "he could tell that she wasn't a woman by comparing her to women" but this is clearly not what is meant. Rather, I'd translate it as "he discriminated against her because she is female."
I'm generally a champion of language change and innovation. It's my job, after all. But with this particular structure, I think I understand -- on an emotional level -- the curmudgeonly and pedantic response everything from totes to fleek gets. But, of course, I will accept the fact of language change, and not discriminate kids these days against their language use.
©Taylor Jones 2016
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