“the” in “the unicorn,” “the phoenix,” or “the gods,” or, asnmany baby boomers now use the term, “the Establishment,”nan ironic reference to the general gremlins ofnparanoia that inhabit social life. Here the definite articlengives its seal of approval not to the existence of the mythicalnbeast, but to the shared agreement to entertain it as andelightful counterfactual object of thought.nBut if we employed this defense, we would be robbed ofnthe veridical or scientific use of the term “patriarchy,” withnthe inoffensive indefinite article. We might still want to asknsuch reasonable questions as, is there such a thing as anpatriarchy? Is the society one? Are there other kinds? Ifn”the” patriarchy were just like “the” unicorn, “a” patriarchynmight be as hard to find as a unicorn. To keep the packagen(that is, the word “the”) while changing what is inside (thatnis, from the “the” of a single accepted truth to the “the” of anplayfully shared myth) would be entirely in the spirit of thencoiners of “the patriarchy,” but it would play into theirnhands by abandoning the criteria of evidence and reasoning.nThis essay is in no sense an argument about whethernthere are or are not societies that can legihmately be termednpatriarchies; nor whether there is or is not just one patriarchy,n”the” patriarchy; nor whether patriarchy can or cannotncoexist with other forms of organization, for instancenmatriarchy or democracy; nor whether patriarchy dominatesna whole society or is just the characteristic structure of ancertain sphere of life, the fatherly, while other spheres of life,nas the motherly, are governed by a matriarchy; nor whethernthe manifest decline of the institution of fatherhood in ournown society compared to most other societies the world hasnknown — to the extent of mass abandonment by fathers ofntheir wives and children, and universal ridicule of fathers —ncan be reconciled with the proposition that ours is anpatriarchal society; nor how such a society could find itsnphilosophical underpinnings in so fervent an antipatriarchalistnas John Locke, who as long ago as the 17th centurynpredicated the modern democratic liberal capitalist statenupon the utter abolition of political patriarchy; nor whethernfathers or mothers are better off in an ultimate sense; nornwhether or not patriarchy is a good thing — or was a goodnthing in our society while it existed.nThe point is that though all these issues are still underninvestigation by research, imagination, logic, and meralnsensibility, and the argument over them is not yet finished,nthe use of the term “the patriarchy” assumes falsely that thenevidence is in and the logic concluded. The term “then.patriarchy” asserts by its very existence that there really isnthis one tyrannical form of organization, and that it privilegesnone group of people over another, unjustly and in allnspheres of life, and that this is no longer — or never was — ansubject for argument and legitimate disagreement.nIt should be noted that inquisition would probably revealnmy own views on this matter to be, if complex, reassuringlyn”liberal,” to use another loaded term. But those views arennot the subject of this essay, which is the interesting use ofnwords to deceive and coerce, a small natural history of anspecial variety of cant.nAs we have seen, evidence and reasoning are two of thenprime victims of the loaded word. Now, evidence andnreasoning are not useful for everything, as anyone shouldnknow who uses them regularly. But concealed in the “the”nnnLa Belle Dame Sans Mercinby Thomas FlemingnI spent the night, I could not get. to sleep,nin counting out six million Yiddish sheep.nIt took more time on the slow Russian tonguento tell the tale of each Ukrainian,nand every Cossack, Kulak, Finn and Lett —nto count ten million, how can I forget?nI wonder, now and then did Chairman Maonask how old so-and-so was doing now?nForgetting, much like Claudius Roman Emperor,nthat he’d dispatched him in a fit of temper.nSo many so-and-sos from which to choosenyour favorite: rich men, poor men, beggarmen, Jews,nnameless and faceless as each drop of rainnthat vanishes upon my window pane.nThey were all very careful to explainnthe thing that grew inside me felt no pain.nIt was routine — they swore they spoke the truth —nno more than pulling out a wisdom tooth.nThe room was bright — all porcelain and steel.nThe nurses promised that I would not feelnanything. It’s strange, this modern math —nsix million over one. I take a bath —nsuch firm athletic flesh (I did not kill!) —ncome downstairs, watch TV, and take the pill.nAPRIL 1989/21n