Word and Object

Word and Object header image

In Protest Against the Frequent Misuse of the Word “Folk”

March 27th, 2008 by David Kronemyer · 1 Comment

I am sick and tired of hearing George Bush (most notably) refer to people as “folk.”  Mr. Bush is not the only one with a predeliction for frequent misuse of this term, although he is the most notable example.  I now cringe whenever it is uttered by anybody, even if the context is benign. 

From an etymological standpoint “folk” means indigenous culture.  It typically is spatially localized to a particular community.  It frequently (though not necessarily) comprises a “tradition” or set of historical practices shared by members of a discrete social group.  It has a number of precipitates such as “folk psychology,” which is a common-sense set of beliefs and assumptions underlying everyday knowledge and practices.  From an anthropological perspective, local “folk” thought (Völksgedanke) can be contrasted with the common mental “endowment” we all share (Elementargedanke).

Bush uses the term negligently to mean “everybody.”  The reason why he does this is because he is striving to seem ordinary and unassuming even though he is President.  His motive is to attempt to ingratiate himself with the populace.  Instead of doing so he just seems stupid or condescending.  His public opinion polls are at a record low.

Like Porky Pig said, “that’s all, folks!”