important linguistic note

This story on NPR’s website by linguist John McWhorter, makes a very important point about our society’s use of the word “Troops” to designate soldiers, or airmen, or marines:

The problem is that this usage of troops is only possible in the plural. One cannot refer to a single soldier as a troop. This means that calling 20,000 soldiers “20,000 troops” depersonalizes the soldiers as individuals, and makes a massive number of living, breathing individuals sound like some kind of mass or substance, like water or Jell-O, or some kind of freight.

Couldn’t agree more. We have to be cognizant, as we speak of them, that these are living breathing folks out there with families and hopes. Not pieces on a game board or figures boxed into comic book frames. As McWhorter notes, rather painfully, “One will never encounter a troop learning to use her prosthetic leg.”
So lets call our “troops” what they are: soldiers.

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