When you look around the room, you don’t know what those people’s pasts consists of or the things they’ve experienced — yet many seemingly innocent expressions have the tendency to give you clues.The other night my friend said she wished someone would shoot her, a phrase most of us have used many times. This time, however, was shortly after the Virginia Tech shooting. I bit my tongue, not wanting to point it out, but she called herself on it.
I was happy she recognized her poor choice of words, because not many of us do when it comes to expressions.
The phrase I cannot stand is comparing something to a seizure, whether the person is dancing or doing whatever. My dad had epilepsy, I know what a seizure looks like and I also know that anyone who has witnessed a seizure would never use that expression. Sure we all have slips of the tongue, but at what expense?
Every time I hear this expression, even though it has been five years since he died, I remember all too well what it looks like when someone has a seizure. No it’s not a pretty sight, but someone with bad dancing moves can never compare to the horror of actually witnessing a seizure.
And how is it that a one-syllable word meaning happy has come to be so resentful and negative? Gay should be used to refer to its original meaning or the population of homosexuals; yet, every day it can be heard referring to something a person deems lame. Do people realize with one word how many people they are belittling?
Even the mental illness of mental retardation has become overused and given a negative connotation to the point that health officials are thinking about changing the name of the illness so those associations will not label a child who does in fact suffer from mental retardation. Calling another person a retard is more offensive than to the person it is directed because it targets all those who have the illness and bashes them.
Language is a form of communication, so why do we manipulate it to be so hurtful and cruel?
Even something as simple as people wishing each other a happy holiday on April 20 angers and hurts people. It no longer just stands for a day to go smoke pot (you do it anyway why do you need a day to celebrate the disgusting habit?), but as a day that Columbine was infiltrated and people died. This past Friday was a national day of mourning for those who died in the Virginia Tech shooting, yet here are many students calling across yards to each other to light up. Even if they are not mourning, it’s a lack of respect for those who are mourning.
Then there are those who mention death such as “I’m going to kill myself” or “He should go kill himself.” If anyone who has known someone who committed suicide hears these phrases, the guilt comes flooding back. It’s hard enough to get over when it first happens, but over and over it is thrown in their face as their peers continue to speak without really thinking.
Maybe it’s because they don’t actually think about what these expressions mean and they repeat them like robots.
Words have power. Power to heal and power to hurt. Think about what you say because who knows who hears you.