they already partly convict their targets of witchcraft.nExamples of such words include, for example, the phrasen”under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance (which automaticallynand without argument makes it impossible for ZennBuddhists, animalists, polytheists, and atheists to be patrioticnAmericans) and the slogans of both the pro- and thenanti-abortion movements. The subtext of the word “prolife”nincludes the following questionable and inconsistentnassertions: (1) that what is valuable about a human being isnlife (yet the skin-tissue I kill when I scratch is alive, andnsuitably cloned possesses all the genetic inheritance requirednto produce a new baby Frederick Turner); (2) that humannlife begins at the moment of conception, not before or after,nand not gradually; (3) that a soul is implanted from outsideninto the human body at conception; and (4) that the wordn”life” is an acceptable synonym for “soul.” The termn”pro-life” has the form and appearance of something youncould not possibly disagree with. How could someone ben”anti-life”?nThe same goes for the term “pro-choice.” Nobody wouldnbe anti-choice. But the word contains just as many questionablenassumptions as “pro-life,” among others, that: (1) sincenthe fetus is not a human being, its choice, if you were to waitnaround long enough to find out (as you might wait for ansleeping person to wake up in order to ask her something)ndoes not count; (2) getting pregnant in the first place wasnnot a choice — also perhaps (2a) if you think it was a choicenyou are obviously a sexually repressed and dangerousnprotofascist; (3) the father’s choice does not count either; (4)nthe whole issue is one in which choice is a valid factor, as it isnwhen we choose between brands in the supermarket ornbetween political candidates; rather than one in whichnchoice is not a valid factor, as in the choice of whether or notnto kill a neighbor. ,nThe point is that for one who believes (as I do, forninstance, though it does not concern this essay) that abortionnbefore the last trimester is a sad but often acceptablensubstitute for bringing an unwanted baby into the world, thenword “pro-choice,” though perhaps a nice public relationsncoup, can produce only Pyrrhic victories. The slogan makesnit appear that to agree with it you have to kill and bury anyndoubts you might have about issues 1, 2, 2a, 3, and 4; doubtsnthat are more horrible as ghosts than as live opponents. Onnthe other hand, a true lover of whims, inconsistencies, andnfollies — as I hope I am — might find it hard to say goodbyento such a good friend.nOther examples of such haunted and machicolated termsninclude the word “skills,” especially when used in anneducational context. This word buries the unargued assumptionnthat a skill is separable from, and implantable in, anhuman person, and that the content of a mind is unimportantncompared to the mechanical methods in which it hasnbeen trained. In a deep sense the word denies the originalncapacity for causation in the human being, and the uniquenessnof each human world view, while placing in the handsnof those who teach “skills” the reins of the republic. Anothernword of this kind, which makes up for its lack of subtlety by ancertain breathtaking seizure of the initiative, is “needs,” as inn”my needs.” Here what is crudely but effectively concealednis a bold preemptive attempt at a coup: the redefining ofnwhat I happen to want as what is necessary for my survivaln20/CHRONICLESnnn(and what you should therefore give me).nSome terms, like “profit motive,” contain two distinct andncompeting sets of cant. In this case one of them consists innthe capitalist’s implicit fudging or stretching of the notion ofnmonetary gain to cover all ways in which you might profitnfrom something; and the other implies that anything you donbecause you want to do it is selfish and exploitative. Couldnyou possibly be motivated by anything other than profit, innits broadest sense — “what doth it profit a man . . .”? Yetnwouldn’t it be nice for the unmotivated, the failures, thosenparalyzed by their own self-indulgence, self-hatred, orninertia, to be able to smear all success as basely mercantile innits motivation? “Capitalist,” by the way, is another suchnword, though the brilliant coloration of its inconsistencies isnbeginning to fade with time, as it becomes harder and hardernto distinguish capitalism from modern;economic organizationnin general.nEveryone can find favorite examples of his own. But thenneed for a cant-detector is no less now than it was in then18th century, the golden age of cant detection; perhapsngreater. Those loaded or haunted words can be dangerous,nattracting as they often do much of the free-floating hatrednthat is still left over from the great spasms of mass cruelty wenhave endured since the French Revolution. (I am grateful tonZsuZsanna Ozsvath for this insight.) At the same time theirnfecund absurdities can be a reliable source of entertainment.nThus it might be valuable to develop ways of translating orndeconstructing such words into their underlying assertionsnand payoffs.nOne of the richest and most delightful veins of cant cannbe found in the word “patriarchy,” especially whennaccompanied by its little seal of ontological validity, thendefinite article: “the patriarchy.” If it’s a “the,” then therenmust be only one of it (as opposed to there being severalndifferent patriarchies and kinds of patriarchies, together withnother organizations that are not patriarchal). Moreover, as an”the,” it must definitely exist, and all persons must agreenthat it exists. “A” patriarchy, on the other hand, might ornmight not exist; you would have to use evidence andnreasoning to decide whether something was or was not anpatriarchy. Not so “the” patriarchy. If you don’t see that itnexists, obviously you are so snowed by its propaganda thatnyou are blind to its reality, or you are part of it and involvednin a coverup.nEven the nature of the patriarchy is implied by “the.”nThe patriarchy that one means is the bad one, the hegemonic,ncontrolling, oppressive one, to use three more primenexamples of the loaded word. “The” somehow rules out anyndisagreement on the nature and definition of patriarchy, as itnrules out any question of whether it is a good or a bad thing,nor whether it was good at one time and bad at another.n”The” rules out any investigation of the issue. Indeed, if thenpatriarchy is the patriarchy, the very use of. evidence andnreasoning to decide whether it is or not, is already a clearnsign that one is a member of that fob-pocketed, bulgingeyed,nand beetrpot-complexioned fraternity of tyrants.nThere does exist, however, a tempting defense against thendefinite article here. It consists of a deliberate misprision, andelicate little finesse or modulation whereby the “the” couldnbe metamorphosed in a flash so as to take on the quality ofn