We've Forgotten What 'Respect' Means

It is something earned, not demanded: Peter Funt
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2011 1:14 PM CDT
Aretha Franklin sang about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but things have gone downhill for the word since then.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Keep your ears tuned for the next time someone complains about being disrespected. It shouldn't take long, writes Peter Funt in the Wall Street Journal. Could be an athlete, a congressman, a musician, or your neighbor. "Apparently 'respect' has emerged as society's favorite go-to word when we don't like someone or something, or they don't like us," writes Funt. But we've forgotten the essential element of respect: It is something to be earned, not demanded.

Aretha Franklin's famous anthem of 1967 may have signaled the start of the "rhetorical shift," but her song "underscored reasonable goals of the civil rights and women's rights movements." Things have gone downhill for the notion of respect since. "Sometimes in our living language we allow a good word to go bad, and in doing so redefine ourselves," writes Funt. "Today, those most adamant in demanding respect are often the least likely to deserve any."

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