"Vulnerable" is one of the words that the US administration has reportedly told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention they may no longer use in budget reports.
It's an odd word, when you look at it. What can it literally mean? "Able to be vulnered"? It is in fact a 16th-century borrowing from Latin vulnerābilis wounding, from vulnerāre to wound.
One of those many "inkhorn terms" we borrowed from Latin at the time, "vulnerable" did originally mean "able to wound", but very quickly it took on a passive sense, "able to be wounded". At first, this was literal, as in this quotation from Macbeth:
a1616 Shakespeare Macbeth (1623) v. x. 11 Let fall thy blade on vulnerable Crests, I beare a charmed Life.But very soon it came to be used figuratively:
The most recent usage started in sociology in the 1940s. Consider the second quotation and contemplate how much wisdom is to be found in the quotations of the Oxford English Dictionary!
b. fig. Open to attack or injury of a non-physical nature; esp., offering an opening to the attacks of raillery, criticism, calumny, etc.1678 R. Cudworth The true intellectual system of the universe: the first part We had further Observed it, to have been the Method of our Modern Atheists, to make their First Assault against Christianity, as thinking that to be the most Vulnerable.
Designating a person in need of special care, support, or protection (esp. provided as a social service) because of age, disability, risk of abuse or neglect, etc.
1947 Journal of Educational Sociology 20 261 We have cited above the more dramatic ways in which children are hurt and neglected by their communities and their families. These are the ‘vulnerable’ children, those who need extra care, extra protection, and a background of careful planning for them.1963 The Times Literary Supplement 15 Feb. 112/3 The care of vulnerable groups is one indication of a country's degree of civilization...
The other words reportedly banned are
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