Saturday, October 13, 2007

Is Tolerance Tomorrow's Politically Incorrect Word?

Let me illustrate. Using American Heritage definitions, here is how the word is popularly used today:
1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.

Seems cool, right? But what about those other meanings?

    1. Leeway for variation from a standard.
    2. The permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension, often expressed as a percent.
    3. Physiological resistance to a poison.
    4. The capacity to absorb a drug continuously or in large doses without adverse effect; diminution in the response to a drug after prolonged use.
    5. Acceptance of a tissue graft or transplant without immunological rejection.
    6. Unresponsiveness to an antigen that normally produces an immunological reaction.

Variation from the "Standard." Not as cool when it comes to the modern meaning because it would imply your belief is standard and someone else's isn't. So let's look at one more meaning:

3. The capacity to endure hardship or pain.

Definitely not cool in relation to our more common modern meaning. If you publicly said that you endured people different from you, you'd be crucified. I'll bet that when our kids or grandkids are our age, they will frown and furrow their brows if they hear us old coots use the word "tolerance." They might even scold us, even though today the word is more than acceptable. Think of that the next time one of your parents or grandparents say a word that falls harshly on your ears.

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