The English word naughty, from the old English word meaning nothing, has been used by Anglo-Saxon speakers for about 700 years.
Its meaning has evolved from that of naught-y, or needy, having nothing through its darker meaning of wicked, evil or morally wrong (especially used to describe women who were considered to have lost all worth when they lost their virginity) to its modern tame sense of disobedient, as in a naughty child.
In its present sense, we hear a Christmas ditty about being naughty or nice; we give the tongue-in-cheek, sing-song reprimand naughty, naughty, naughty!
And we use the adjective to label the chubby, cherub-faced child who has stealthily liberated a chocolate-chip cookie from the jar.
What I take great umbrage to, however, is using the word naughty to describe drivers who wilfully ignore the prohibition against the use of cell phones while driving, placing themselves and others on the road in peril of life and limb.
These drivers are not merely naughty, unless we regain some sense of the former meaning of the word, wicked, evil and morally wrong.
The assessment of Staff Sgt. Grant Learned is sadly true: “Distracted driving continues to be an ongoing problem not only in Kamloops but in other cities around the province.
“I think the general consensus is that it is a slow process where the drivers will come around.”
In the same way, it has taken countless senseless deaths and decades to bring about a change in public opinion of drunk drivers from that of being naughty to the more accurate description of being criminally indictable.
As Learned says, it is a slow process, but let’s not prolong that process by speaking euphemistically about drivers who effectively value chit-chat more than they value human life.
Should you or yours be the victim in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you surely would not confront that motorist by intoning, “Naughty, naughty, naughty!”
Likewise, if your job is to compose a newspaper headline, rally all your skills as a wordsmith to get it right.