Monday, December 10, 2012

CHANGING THE WORDS

I find, that when it comes to words, I am easily impressionable.
Like instead of talking about being pregnant, you continually refer to yourself as being preggers.
See what I did there? I shortened it, made it sound more hip or maybe just made it sound annoying.
Or, instead of saying, "That's not okay." or "Gosh I really think that punishment is rather harsh" we tend to now go, "That's so ghetto."
It's funny isn't it? How easily we can fall into using a certain wordage as part of our daily vocabulary.
It's like we're constantly living in our own real life Mean Girls movie where we're trying to change words into new formats or slang and make them popular. That's so fetch, isn't it?

Since I am always striving to be a good person, I have noticed that in the last couple years, there have been people and events in my life that have changed the way I speak and want others around me to speak.
While personal and family experiences have influenced this change, I think the majority of my mindful attitude toward positive communication has to do with having children. I try to think of myself as a model (which is obvious because I'm their parent-duh) for how I want them to speak and treat others as they grow.

A few years ago, I found myself extensively and comfortably using the word "retarded" as part of my usual jargon. For example, when I thought something was dumb or someone was acting stupid, I used to say, "Well, that's retarded."
But if you stop and think about it for a second, that's an awful word and it is terribly hurtful when used in that sense. It is blatantly insensitive to a group of people who have worked very hard to have that tactless and ugly word removed from stereotyping or categorizing them.
In my family, there are people with special needs. I see how hard their parents and other relatives fight for their rights to get help from the state, to get answers from the doctors, and to get respect and equality from the community.
My musings on this pinpointed such an ugly reflection of myself that I could only hang my head in shame.  I wasn't helping them out if my mindset was still focusing on using that word in my daily jargon. I was hindering all of their hard efforts and any support I had pledged to them if I couldn't even change my language. I also felt like a huge jerk for using a word that was hurtful to a family member who is absolutely beautiful and amazing, but has been dealt a different take on life. It definitely made me stop and think about who I was as a person. I was ashamed.
That word has been barred from my life for many years now and is not allowed in my household. Just ask Jeff, I'm constantly correcting his speech the second he walks in the door. I'm pretty sure it annoys him to no end, but in the long run he will be a better person for not dropping the f-bomb every 30 seconds or for using the word "bottom" or "booty" instead of "butt" in front of our kids.

After removing "retarded" from my vocabulary, another word took its place. Like the previous word before I used to describe something dumb or silly, so too did the word "gay" take its place.
Like, "Oh how gay is that having to work on a Saturday?"
I know.
And you know what? One of the best things that could have happened to me was to be called out on using that word.
A while back, I had a student working for me who was openly gay. While having a conversation with them one day I used that word and the tone of our discussion rapidly changed.
An apology was immediately given and they pretty much dissed me for being so thoughtless.
I needed that shock to my system, and thus began another transformation of my language.
Shortly after that incident, an extended family member bravely came out.
I was and still am extremely happy and supportive--just as they have always been of my decisions to go to college, to get married, to have kids etc etc.
I think, in the world we live today, this must be accepted without questions or judgement.
And so, I again reviewed my ugly choice of words and made a commitment to vanquish such commentary.

I want my children to grow up knowing the right way to verbally express themselves. They don't need to demean another person, race or sex in order to get their words out clearly.
If something is silly, say it is silly.
If something is funny, laugh as hard as you can.
If something is mean, say it is mean and use other words to clarify just how "cruel" or "unkind" the action was.

Quit using other people as scapegoats for your lack of vocabulary and start expanding your knowledge and culture on the millions of words our language and other languages have to express our emotions, the actions of others, or our lives in general.

Think before you speak. Think of those in your life who could be affected by your words or how your words will affect others.

Words are powerful.

They can also be funny:
 
 

2 comments:

Jeff Windmueller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Windmueller said...

I'm very proud of you for deciding to curb your language for the betterment of ... the world?