The Lockdown Society Goes Primetime
Date Written: 24/04/2013
Year Published: 2013
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22306
Michael Schwalbe ponders the influence on society of incorporating authoritarian jargon into everyday use, with specific reference to the use of 'Lock down' normalizing the concept of restrictions on movement in non-prison situations.
"Lockdown" escaped prison long ago. A Google Ngram chart shows the word first popping up in books in the mid-1960s but gaining little currency until around 1990, at which time its frequency soars. The Ngram chart nearly mirrors a chart of the explosive growth in the U.S. prison population, though with a ten-year lag. A decade after the prison population began to boom in 1980, "lockdown" began a boom of its own.
I was first affronted by this pricksome word a couple years ago when our campus facilities manager sent an e-mail informing university employees about the "holiday lockdown schedule." This was meant to tell us which buildings would require a key for entry during the semester break. I e-mailed back to say that since a university is not a prison and its employees are not inmates, the word "lockdown" was inappropriate. He did not reply.