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When we redefine words like “torture” and “slavery,” we weaken them

To change the meaning of words that used to be well understood is to set off down a very slippery slope

By Mary Dejevsky  

Photo: ©Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

Most English-speakers, I imagine, would have little difficulty defining torture. They would be equally clear about slavery. In the first instance, we would be talking abhorrent physical methods used to try to extract information; in the second, the buying and selling of human beings for their labour.

What were once quite specific and commonly accepted meanings, however, seem to be developing a new elasticity, thanks in part to…

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