Why is it that when we use enable to talk about the affluent it is a positive word, but when used to talk about the poor, it is a negative one?

We heard an interesting woman on public TV talking about her rise to self sufficiency. She pointed out that even the language we use is colored by our views. Her examples were something like this:

“Her parents enabled her to graduate from college debt free.”
“That program just enables people.”

2 thoughts on “Enable

  1. It seems to me the word has a negative connotation until you clarify what you’re enabling…. in the first sentence you did… in the second you didn’t. In the first something good was being enabled: debt-freeness, (if you’d left that part off it would have been assumed that her parents were enabling something bad)… in the second, presumably, some bad habit was enabled.

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