Inmate: The $50 Million Dollar Name That Dare Not Be Spoken

By Mark Skoultchi

July 7, 2011

Ouch! Don’t SAY that word!

Here at Catchword HQ, we’re all about balance and clarity.

(Well, except for our annual Punctuation Party where everyone dresses up as their favorite punctuation mark).

We believe in the relative equity between actions and words. The consequences of using particular words as they support actions should be clear and logical. Words ought to have direct and conventional meaning.

So imagine our surprise over the lawsuit filed recently on behalf of one Gerard Domond, currently a guest of New York State.

Back in 1987, Mr. Domond resolved a dispute over a pharmacological transaction through homicide. Since then he’s been in the pokey upstate. One would think that Gerard would have spent the past 24 years percolating in his remorse, and perhaps learning a skilled trade.

Nope.

Apparently the overwhelming concern for Mr Domond is that the prison guards refer to him as an “inmate.”

According to his sister, who filed the $50 million lawsuit against the state Correctional Services Department, “the label implies that our brother is locked up for the purposes of mating with other men.” Call us Inspector Callahan, but we think the reason Gerard is getting three hots and a cot is that he shot a guy in the head.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the name “…hurts his feelings…” and has caused mental anguish worth the annual payroll of a typical professional sports team.

In the spirit of familial support, Domond’s sister is serving as lawyer (and ad hoc naming expert) when she says:

“The suggestive nature of the word is disgraceful. This cruel psychological programming has weighed heavily on our emotional and psychological well-being. It’s something that’s bothered me for a long time. I couldn’t understand why no one recognized that somebody being labeled an inmate, why they wouldn’t recognize that. To me it just sounded very wrong.”

At Catchword we think this is absurd. Since its first appearance in the sixteenth century, the appellation has consistently meant “…a person who is confined to an institution…” Long time readers to this blog know how such misappropriation and redefinition of words and languages particularly vexes Catchword.

Indeed, part of a convicted felon’s punishment ought to be the acceptance of a conventional and colloquial description of his status. We submit that any “hurt feelings” or “anguish” more properly lie six feet under with the deceased. Furthermore, we also suggest that (as with plenty of other names) reasonable substitutions exist for the “offending” word. Catchword suspects that there have been plenty of times when Mr. Domond was addressed as “prisoner” or “convict” with the same meaning being conveyed, albeit without the traumatic fallout of the loathsome “inmate.”

In a flash of reason, the state correction officials sagely declined to comment on the pending litigation, let alone the name itself. Sometimes, supreme folly does not warrant a response.

But we’re certain that at Mr. Domond’s parole hearing (in 2013) this matter will surely resurface. At which time we hope the parole board will decline his release but provide him with a dictionary.

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