Hearing the Two Words in “Social Security”

Sometimes we use a combination of two words together frequently enough throughout our everyday language that the two essentially become one; we cease to hear the two words as words on their own, and instead hear the two words as a single amalgamated word. It’s a case of near portmanteau-hood.

When this happens it can be helpful to step back from our everyday use of that combination of two words, and slow down to hear the content of the phrase — to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, which here means stopping to hear the separate words.

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The best, most germane-here example of this concept is the phrase Social Security — something I’ve been mentioning a lot of late in the John Friedman Financial Blog (here, herehere and here, to name just the most recent mentionings).

So ask yourself this: when you said the phrase “Social Security” in your head right now as you read the paragraph above (or, for that matter, as you read it now), did you actually hear the two words — first the word social and then the word security — or did you simply hear the word socialsecurityall conjoined and all said-as-one, lickety-split?

My hunch is that most folks hear the phrase as a onesy rather than as a twosy.

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It needn’t be that way.

Think of it: there’s the social part (the part that involves all of us pooling our interests and risks together, just like car insurance companies and life insurance companies pool our interests and risk together), and then there’s the security part (the part that helps ensure that, throughout our lives, we have fewer fears of financial enfeeblement in our retirements and in the retirements of our loved ones than would otherwise be the case).

So next time you hear the phrase Social Security, please think about stopping for a moment to consider how, by truffling a vig off of each and nearly all (social) of our paychecks (with some exceptions for paychecks of high-earners and of a few folks not contributing to the system . . . ), we each and nearly all (social) ante up into a kitty that’s more or less owned by each and nearly all (social) of us, which in turn makes it easier for each and nearly all of us (social) to enjoy our and our loved ones’ later years, and have those years be something other than financially terrifying (security), with the end result being that we are all less apt to be a burden on family members and they on us, or, for that matter, we or they being a burden on anyone else around us (social and security).

So ya’got’ch’yer social and ya’got’ch’yer security — two words which, taken together, have made a big difference in our lives and in those of our loved ones.

From here on, then, as you go about using the everyday language of socialsecurity, please do stop from time to time to hear those two words — social and security — each on its own, won’t’ch’ya please?





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