The word umbrageous has two meanings: the first, “forming shade or shady;” however, it is the second meaning that is more interesting and relevant to the world today: “easily offended or upset.” The word is derived from the Old French umbrageux, from umbre, meaning “shade,” and the Latin umbra, meaning “shade or shadow.” Related to this word is “umbrage:” to take umbrage at a comment, is to be offended.
This past year, especially in the midst of America’s most turbulent, hostile, and divisive presidential campaign, the internet has been buzzing with stories about people and groups who were offended (sometimes legitimately, of course) by what someone said, tweeted, or wrote. It would be quite challenging to find a single story or editorial on the internet where some reader, in the comments section, expressed that he or she was very offended by the writer’s words or ideas. In today’s world — swarming with racism, homophobia, misogyny, sexism, extreme political correctness, Trumpisms, etc. — it is not surprising that people are truly hypersensitive to anything that could be perceived offensive — even when it was never intended to be. That is to say, that even the most simple, deferential, seemingly innocuous sentence will offend some reader. Perhaps we can conclude that an unintended consequence of the rapid dominance of the Internet was that it ushered in the Age of Umbrageousness.
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