There's a disturbing trend of lexical dishonesty. To be fair, it's not deliberate - most people engaging in it are rather ignorant of the fact that it's happening. Part of the problem is simply that we (humans) feel the need to have convenient terms of aggrandizement, and when they are difficult to find, our brain's lazy word-association powers start to coopt terms that don't really mean what they intend.
Case in point: over the past decade or so, there's been an enormous number of headlines, from blogs to well-established news publications, denouncing the dangers of "fundamentalist" religion. But to quote Inigo, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." What people really seem to want to say when they use the word "fundamentalism" is more along the lines of "extreme literalism" or "zealotry". Fundamentalism is actually sort of the opposite. The real Fundamentalist Christian movement was actually started for the purpose of uniting the various (often bickering) Christian sects and denominations into one united political voice, by defining the "fundamentals", or bare-bones basic core ideals, that all Christians share - mostly revolving around acknowledging two things: one, that Jesus was real, and two, that he died for humanity's sins (two beliefs, by the way, that I as an atheist, don't share, but I digress...). By focusing on the very basic, most benign, and very lowest common denominators, rather than the extremist, literalist edge cases (like dancing with snakes, stoning gays, and making women shut up in public), it allowed all sorts of different Christians to find a common bond. So how did "fundamentalism" become synonymous with extremist lunatic? Well, in part because some of the leaders in the Fundamentalist Christian movement were themselves extremist lunatics, and therefore people simply began to associate the word with the lunatics. But in reality, it's not what they mean.
And this brings us to the newest linguistic misuse: "Radical Islam". Again, what people really mean to say is "fucked-up extremist jihadi Islamism". Radicalism is actually defined by two characteristics:
1 - a movement of revolutionary change that is started by the "roots" (radical/radix/root), or what we in America often refer to as the "grass roots" - the common people, rather than the elites
2 - a movement of revolutionary change that is abhorred by the traditionalist elements of society, because the change the movement seeks often tramples on the most treasured traditionalist ideals
If we look at what society is typically calling "radical Islam", it fails both facets of the definition. The militant jihadi extremist movements are often headed by political or religious elites, and they are ultra-traditional. These militant extremists aren't seeking core revolutionary change - they want to *return* to the most traditionalist ideals. In fact, by the true definition of the word "radical", radicals are the Muslims (or ex-Muslims) who are most critical of the traditionalist elites, who don't fear pointing out the extremely disturbing issues with Islamism, and who want to change (and even overturn) traditional Islamic power structures to pluralize and secularize them. On that account, it would seem as if we actually need *more* radical Muslims.
So this is where I point out that my problem isn't with the words themselves (or the misuse thereof). You'd have to be a pretty pedantic philological Nazi to care that much about mere words. Instead, the problem I have with people misusing these terms is that it indicates the people aren't really thinking deeply about the subjects. Instead, they are mostly parroting some self-appointed "pundits", most of whom seem to be pretty ignorant themselves (as evidenced by their misuse of the words to begin with). And I have to say, it's pretty troubling to realize how superficially people are thinking about these profoundly important issues.