Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.
User avatar
Dr. Goodword
Site Admin
Posts: 4539
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:28 am
Location: Lewisburg, PA


Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:01 pm

• janitor •

Pronunciation: jæ-ni-têr • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A door-keeper, porter, ostiary. 2. A caretaker or custodian of a building.

Notes: We think today's word is still a good one despite the fact that it has fallen into the disrepute of political incorrectness. Those of us sensitive to the political whims in language in the US today refer to janitors as custodians. Janitor has an adjective, janitorial, and the position of a janitor is a janitorship. We think this word should never have been shuffled off to the PC cellar.

In Play: When we replace names that we think have become unrespectable, however, the general result is that the replacement soon acquires the connotation of disrespect. It would be difficult to find a designation for custodians with a more sterling pedigree than janitor, though: not only is it based on the name of a Roman god, beginning in the 17th century Saint Peter himself was sometimes called "the Janitor of Heaven".

Word History: Janitor comes to us directly from Latin ianitor "doorkeeper" based on the word ianus (janus) "archway, gate". The god of doorways and the New Year in ancient Rome was also called Ianus (Janus). Because he was the god of beginnings and endings, he was represented over Roman doorways with two faces looking in opposite directions. The only remains of this association is in Portuguese, where janela means "window". The month of January was also named after him. The name is based on the Proto-Indo-European root ei- "to go", found today in Russian idu "I am going". Latin ire "to go" and iter "journey", visible today in the English borrowings iterate, itinerary, and itinerant, are descendants of the same PIE root.
• The Good Dr. Goodword

Perry Lassiter
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 3192
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:41 pm
Location: RUSTON, LA

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:48 am

Secretaries are now often called "administrative assistants." The term may give them higher status, but it creates ambiguity. Wouldn't a COO and a CFO also be administrative assistants to the CEO? "Secretary" is far more clear when you want a typist, file clerk, or receptionist. I've long known that the boss's secretary may run the business and that a good and experienced secretary is the hardest position to replace. "Secretary" and "janitor" are honorable words, and we don't need to "correct" them, politically or otherwise.

User avatar
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 3959
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:16 pm
Location: Land of the Flat Water

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:38 pm

Yup, political correctness. A lot of hooey.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

Philip Hudson
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 2049
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:41 am
Location: Texas

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:12 pm

The only dishonorable professions are those that are by their nature dishonorable or are performed dishonorably. I have been a farm laborer, grocery shelf stocker, rough neck, janitor, library book stacker, chemistry lab technician, chemistry lab teacher, music minister, surveyor, mega-large engine mechanic, public school teacher, college teacher, computer programmer, systems engineer, technical writer, printer and ESL teacher. These were just my paying jobs. Some of these paid more than others. Some were physically easier than others. Every one of them was a noble profession. None of them need to be strained through some political correctness filter to have an apt name.

My dad had more jobs than I had. From telegraph pole cutter, at 2 cents a pole, to Farmer's co-op President, his jobs were all honorable.

One of my sons is a surgeon, but in his curriculum vitae he includes garbage collector and shoe salesman.

Even being a politician can be honorable as so many of our great men and women have shown.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.

Return to “Good Word Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 7 guests