Death of the word, Hero

Posted by on Oct 8, 2013 in Language usage | Comments Off on Death of the word, Hero

As a people, Americans are big-hearted and have boundless enthusiasm. But occasionally in our enthusiasm, we mangle logic and misuse words. When this happens, powerful words are weakened to the point of becoming meaningless.

The latest in the collection of words that are being abused is the word “hero.” This word used to be reserved for outstanding acts of bravery, like reports of individual soldiers in Afghanistan who brave enemy fire to rescue fellow soldiers who have been injured. Such acts should be called heroic, and the actors heroes.

As the country struggles to atone for the bad treatment of veterans of the Vietnam conflict, reporters, older veterans, and politicians–particularly politicians– use the term to describe anyone who has served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do this without considering that they are debasing the language. If anyone serving in a war zone is a “hero,” what do they call the soldier who has performed heroic deeds? If “hero” applies to everyone, then the once powerful word becomes meaningless.

People are well-intentioned, but another wonderful word that has meant so much for thousands of years is diluted, weakened, rendered meaningless, and the rightful praise of our nation’s heroes is made commonplace for lack of vocabulary. Please, save “hero” for the truly heroic.