1. Meaning and Etymology

First, what does the word mean? The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says that the root, ”hate,” has the primary meaning of “to hold in very strong dislike,” “to detest” and “to bear malice.” It then has a secondary meaning of “to dislike greatly’ and “to be extremely adverse.”

The SOED then states that “hatred” means “the condition or state of relations in which one hates another” and “the emotion of hate.” It also has the senses of “active dislike,” “detestation,” “enmity,” “ill-will” and “malice.”

The word “malice,” by the way has the primary meaning of “badness” and “wickedness,” and the secondary sense of “active ill-will or hatred.”

As ever, Skeat sheds a great light on this word. He states that there is a theory that it comes from a Teutonic base HAT, connected with the word “hunt,” which means “to pursue.” If this theory is correct, then it would underline that the word does not just refer to any dislike but to one which is translated into action and pursues its object.

That then, is the strong and original sense of “hatred” in English: it is a degree of dislike so great that it amounts to an active emotion in a person’s heart.

Such a word should be used carefully, but it has been used too carelessly, and so the borders of the word have started to become blurred, with sad results.

This becomes evident when we turn to the seventh edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, published this year (2017). As the SOED does, it gives the primary sense of “hate” as being “to regard with a strong and passionate dislike,” but then it notes that it also means “to be unwilling” as in the phrase “I hate to do it.”

Then, it lists the sense of “devoted to expressing resentment or dislike,” and offers as an example the phrase “a hate session.” It also has the phrase “hate-speech,” which the SOED does not, and connects it with the vilification of certain groups.

The word “vilify” is also interesting. It hails from the Latin “vilis” meaning “of low value,” “cheap,” “common” and “base.” But, like “hate” it also has strong and weak senses, except that here the original sense of “to lower or lessen in worth or value” is the original one, and the stronger nuance of “to defame or traduce” is later.

So, the word “hate” has started to merge with the word “dislike.” There should be little confusion in ordinary usage, as the context should inform us of the nuance which is intended by the speaker. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially when one wishes to employ the word “hatred” for political or ideological advantage.

  1. Modern Use and Abuse

I believe that the concept of “hatred” is being indiscriminately and unwisely used in modern society. I have no sympathy with pedants. As a child, I suffered from mindless pedantry, and I wish it on no one. As I grew older, and saw that the meaning of words changed over time, I felt that the meaning of words could not be artificially frozen. But this did not mean that each word was infinitely plastic, or that one should not aim at precision in speech and writing.

This is not a contradiction: there comes a point where a word like “nice” for example has changed its popular meaning, and it is foolish to try and score points, or to humiliate one’s children for not knowing the original sense of “fastidious.”

When someone whom one has a duty to help out uses a word incorrectly, one can inform them, politely, and discuss it. Sometimes we will learn that a new sense has appeared. This may just have to be accepted. But it can only help someone to know the primary meaning.

In the case of the word “hate,” paying attention to its original sense and how it has been diluted, has the advantage of showing what has been happening in the public forum.

It should be obvious that a person who does not favour the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act does not necessarily hate anyone who is not heterosexual: some gays oppose it! People may believe that this legislation will see the introduction of polygamy into Australia, and believe that this would be bad. And I would agree that it is a legitimate concern. Once the idea gets around that marriage can be whatever we want it to be, where will the non-arbitrary limit be drawn?

The idea that to not want to change the legal definition of marriage is to hate anyone is patently stupid. Why is marriage a sine qua non for the enjoyment of life or human rights? Many heterosexuals who could marry do not. Does that mean that they have fewer rights? Or that their relationships are less to dear to them? I believe that the exclusive commitment of one person to another is better than promiscuity, even for gays. But does that necessarily mean that if I vote against any proposal to change the social institution of marriage I therefore hate any people at all.

Yet, many people, especially in certain sections of the media refuse to acknowledge that one can oppose the legislation and yet love gay people. I do not believe that they do not really know it. But I do think they refuse to admit it.

The irony is that when one pursues people for having spoken against changes to marriage, and tries to get them deregistered as physicians, or to boycott their products and services, that really is hate.

Joseph Azize, 5 September 2017


One comment

  1. This is a very interesting subject which i have not really explored but there have been some things that been floating around in my head and maybe having a discussing about it might help. I think its known by many of us that there are two aspect to a word or phrase, the word itself and the thought or image behind the word. If we use the word hate, the word itself is just 4 letters, but what is behind the word can be many different things, I use the phrase “you are just a hater” a lot of the time, for me i have a picture of what a hater is behind this word and some can feel it as being quite innocent but others can take offence to it, their image behind the word hater is one of real offence, almost in the same realm of calling their mothers all kind of names.

    In reading through this post i realized that words can be be made use of for peoples own agendas, especially in the political fields. in propaganda and such, it can sway a population to move in a certain direction feeding them a series of ideas using words to coax them into a certain behavior. Governments are great at this. In relation to the floatings in my head it takes a different angle. Lately i been reading and rereading and rereading, lol, life is real, on the outside, the words and what the words are packaged in are ideas that seem of little importance, the book on the outside just explains how the writer was having problems in his writing process, how he came to writing the books he did, what the books mean purpose was, and he then goes on to write about the book itself and in the end includes simple lectures that seem meaningless on the outside. If one just reads through it with no thought, like we mostly do, there is absolutely nothing to gain, but it seems that giving the book proper thought and trying to see the forms behind the word and the explanations there is a deeper reasoning. It seems to instruct us and lead our thoughts into a desired direction, instructing the reader what can be accomplished with the writers full body of works and how to use them. In comparing the explanations of the book with what really happened it seems that the writer as lied about many things. His facts dont add up to the real life events, the question is why?
    The only answer i can come up with is that the writer is using words trying to make us think in a certain direction. I guess it is like if i want you to go into another room for your own safety and you wont listen if i tell the truth, i then would tell you a lie so you move and when you get into that room, i then accomplished my aim.

    This brings in another aspect of this idea for me, some seem to just see the words and a slight subjective image behind them, A word to me has one image, the same word to you has another. then this brings in a misunderstanding but a question is is there a way to see the image behind a word that the person is projecting. Is there something within us that can drop our subjective picture attached to our word and see the image that is being projected from the person who is using that word and in doing so see the image they are projecting. Again can we see the image behind the word that is not our subjective image. How do we do this. The writer I spoke about above has three books, his first book he states must be read with this imagine detector we have within us, the problem i see is that people use only the subjective images they have within themselves when reading the book and they get nothing from it. If they could just drop their subjective images and look at it with this image detector we have within us then people could understand the book in a real way. Another question is how would someone learn how to use their own image detector. This is another big question.

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