In The Princess Bride, one character questions another for the latter’s repeated use of a word telling him that he did not think that word meant what the one using it thought it meant. I have run into a little bit of that myself recently with the odd usage of the word “wholesome.” I grew up when “wholesome” described something good for the body, mind, or spirit. The folks at Lexico dot-com have my back on this one:
- “Conducive to or suggestive of good health and physical well-being.”
1.1 “Conducive to or characterized by moral well-being.” 1
However, for current usage, it sometimes helps to consult a tertiary source like Urban Dictionary dot-com. Anyone can define a word, and users vote for the meanings they think are best. User, 265daysofpatandspongebob, provided the most current and popular user-contributed definition of “wholesome.”
“An embodiment of the following: self-less, considerate, sweet, compassionate, thoughtful, generous, genuine, doesn’t talk trash about other people,”2
Yes, I realize that the grammar is not perfect, but that is not the point. Somehow people have come to associate this adjective with the result of having been nurtured by the wholesome. For example, it would be hard to be selfless without wholesome influences. A secondary definition offered by another contributor was essentially something or someone bringing a smile to another’s face.3 Finally, there was the usage I had encountered. The fourth most popular submission asserted that something wholesome expressed love and affection, not lewdness.4
While I can appreciate that people realize that lewdness is not a virtue, not all love and affection are “wholesome.” The forum in which I encountered this word recently was about a story of a young adult who took in a runaway teen. Sadly, the young woman previously traded her body for a place to stay and assumed her new caretaker would desire the same type of “payment.” To his credit, he told her that she had value other than just her body and deserved good treatment with no strings attached. Those who are saying that the story was wholesome, I suppose, were expressing surprise that a vehicle of popular culture was not glorifying casual relations, especially between those of about a ten-year age difference. Thus far, the relationship presented is platonic. Perceptions of the story’s “wholesomeness” among audience members may change if a romance develops between the adult and the teen, even if the former waits to pursue romantic feelings until the latter reaches what the West considers the age of majority.
While I would prefer people to react this way because of moral instruction, I fear it stems more from the self-righteousness associated with political correctness. In other words, it has more to do with #MeToo than God said. After finally understanding how people are using “wholesome,” I thought of how I’ve previously seen the word used by other forum members in the past. The very first time I encountered this odd definition of “wholesome” was in a story with a fantasy setting. A woman befriends a female dragon. The dragon assumes a human form and lives with the woman, and takes care of her like a maid. The dragon acts smitten with the human, but the human has no romantic interest. But with the addition of other dragons who take up residence with the human, the setting assumes the form of a non-traditional family. Like the other story, I referenced, the relationship is platonic. However, the LGBTQ+ community lifted it as a positive example of the gay lifestyle. Commentators talked about how “wholesome” it was. Again, the idea was that it highlighted love and affection without lewdness. Hence, making it more acceptable to the “straights” in the audience.
It seems religious instruction is as lacking as English education today. If newspeak continues replacing our language, we might see other words perverted to accommodate meanings wordsmiths never intended for them. I am mindful of the warning from God as given by His prophet, Isaiah.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5.20 NASB1995)
In the interim, take the time to teach the young people in your life what is wholesome. Let them know that being wholesome requires more than the absence of lewdness, causing others to smile, or remaining selfless. To be wholesome means you surround yourself with makes you a better, more moral person. The only thing capable of doing this is Christ, the Word, and the church.
1 “WHOLESOME: Definition of WHOLESOME by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com Also Meaning of WHOLESOME.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, www.lexico.com/definition/wholesome.
2 265daysofpatandspongebob. “Wholesome.” Urban Dictionary, Urban Dictionary , 16 May 2019,www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wholesome.
3 thisisforyouemily. “Wholesome.” Urban Dictionary, Urban Dictionary , 9 July 2019,www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wholesome.
- littlejimmybig767. “Wholesome.” Urban Dictionary, Urban Dictionary , 23 February 2018,www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wholesom