Monday, September 19, 2011

Advocate vs Advocate For

After venting on such peripheral matters as the fate of the global economy and the relationship between power and policy, I think it’s time to get to the really important stuff, like the painful misuse of “advocate for”.

It sounds terrible and it drives me crazy.

Once, long ago, we didn’t have this problem.  No one ever advocated for anything, they just advocated.  It was simple, clear and correct.  Then, out of the world of social services, where “advocate” is a job title, came the practice of advocating for.  People started by advocating for the homeless or low-income youth, which is fine, and ended up advocating for changes in tax policy or agency budget increases, which is not fine at all.

It comes down to the difference between means and ends.  You advocate for an end.  You advocate a means to that end.  Are activists of such limited moral imagination that they think a higher tax bracket here or more regulations there are ends in themselves?  It sure sounds this way.  If your true goals are economic fairness and public health, however, you will advocate for them, and not for specific policies to bring them about.

The fight for maintaining linguistic distinctions is ultimately about maintaining mental distinctions.  We need those.


pebird said...

Sounds like you are advocating against "advocate for"

Ben Leet said...

"You advocate for an end. You advocate a means to that end." --- You're confusing me. There can be a choice between means, you might be for one and not the other, and still advocate the end. I advocate for and advocate "thru" as opposed to "through". I don't think the linguistic difference is noticeable. Ad - vocare -- to give voice to.