"A cry for help" makes it sound like I'm supposed to take pity on you. But you don't need my pity.That's right, in our culture there's something shameful about needing help, and so "a cry for help" does sound like something that should cause us to take pity. That's fucked up. That's deeply fucked up. It has fucked up our language. That is not how "a cry for help" should sound to us. That is not what the words mean.
It might not be a problem if "help" had taken on a new meaning, but help still means help and thus the fact that needing it is somehow looked on as shameful and pitiful is fucked up.
If help didn't mean help anymore then I'd chalk it up to the natural evolution of language. Pity and Pathetic have both changed from their original meanings into something negative, I'm not going to try to change them back. But for as long as help means help "a cry for help" shouldn't be cause for present-meaning-pity.
This video is of a cry for help being announced and various people reacting to it:
Is there anyone in that video who pities Gondor? Is there anyone who thinks Gondor is Pathetic?
Of course not. When Gondor cries for help we take it seriously, because Gondor is a fictional kingdom that the forces of Mordor and its allies intend to obliterate. That kind of cry for help we take seriously. It's when real people cry for help that we break out the pity.
That's wrong. It's a twisted part of our culture, and it's corrupting our language.
The next time you hear about a cry for help imagine that Aragorn just sprinted into the room and announced, "Gondor calls for aid." You should take the first as seriously as the second.