Noxious doesn’t really mean “noxious”

By Sue Forde

I learned a new word meaning today.  “Noxious.”  I always had thought the word meant “poisonous.”

I was at the Burnt Hill show-and-tell yesterday (the Open House regarding recreation on Burnt Hill, put on by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Olympic Region), and happened upon a “noxious weeds” map.   The meaning of "noxious" is “non-native” said Cathy Lucero, coordinator of the Clallam County Noxious Weed Control Board assured me, when I asked her to define the word. 

Had I looked at the show-and-tell board, I would have seen that “Washington’s noxious weeds are invasive exotic introductions” – in other words, as Ms. Lucero had stated, non-native.

Curious as I am, I looked the word up in the dictionary when I got home.  Here are the definitions I found:

From Encarta:

nox·ious [nóksh (schwa)ss ] adjective

1.  physically harmful:  harmful to life or health, especially by being poisonous

2.  morally harmful:  likely to cause moral, spiritual, or social harm or corruption

3.  disgusting:  very unpleasant a noxious smell

[15th century. Formed from Latin noxius "hurtful, damaging."]


From Webster’s New Collegiate:

Hurtful; unwholesome; also, corrupting of morals.  See Pernicious.

Okay, “Pernicious” – 1.  Highly injurious or destructive in character; deadly.  2. Intending or doing evil; wicked.

Hmmm – I guess Ms. Lucero and her “noxious weed” people need to study the dictionary before placing brand-new definitions on words.  Will the next step be “critical noxious?” (In all fairness to Ms. Lucero, she seems to be very knowledgeable about various types of weeds.)

The Noxious Weed Board is a 5-member board appointed by the county commissioners.  If they find that a landowner has “noxious” weeds on his property and the landowner refuses to “control” the noxious weeds, they can have the control work done and bill the landowner or issue civil infractions.

As in so many other instances, the words are being changed so as to create the illusion of crisis.  When crisis happens, people don’t usually think – they just react.  When crisis is thought to happen (even if there really isn’t a crisis!), people still have a tendency to react – and the reaction most often ends up with more erosion of constitutional rights, and more government control.

Principle of control:  Fear is a wonderful and awesome thing.  When a crisis comes, people react in a variety of ways: fear is one of the foremost.  The result is that actions now become “feelings-based” rather than “fact-based.”  This is the tool of those who would control us.  We need to stop, step back, and remember that “words mean things” – and look with a wary eye at some of the words that are being used by bureaucrats these days.

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