Choose Your Words Carefully

August 27, 2012

For a while now, I've wanted to write this post.  Then a few months ago, I came across this article, "The R Word."  The article has nothing to do with the Campaign "Stop the R word" referring to retardation but everything to do with the word rape.  To summarize the R word article, the young man was pleading with his fellow online gamer "friends" to stop using the word rape in their trash talk and playful banter.  You see he was a rape victim, and every time his friends used the word, horrible images of the incident would fly into his head, ruining not only the moment of playing the game he loved but the rest of his day.

Let me give you another scenario.  I had an ex one time who's younger teenage brother committed suicide with a gun.  About a month after his death, my ex and I were a barbeque with friends.  One of our friends (who didn't know what happened to my ex's brother...because it's not a subject he liked to talk about, understandably) was talking and laughing about this stupid mistake he had made and then the friend stuck two fingers to his head and POW! shot himself with his imaginary gun fingers and laughed. Visibly my ex flinched. So did I.  But our friend was oblivious to the pain he caused my ex.  For the rest of the day, my ex was just not himself, because his mind was on the loss of his younger brother.

So before you: complain about how the dealership "raped" you in finance charges when you bought your new car or joke that you might have to start "cutting" yourself if the chaos of summer doesn't end or "slit your wrists" if you hear your kids complain  one more time or ask who do you have to "molest" to get a discount around here, consider you may not know your audience as well as you think you do, even if they are your best friend.  Rape, molestation, suicide, child abuse, self mutilation and any other horrific events happen to people and most never report it, much less talk about it.

Choose your words carefully.  You never know who they might hurt.

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  1. Yeah, that's a tough one...I personally would never use the word 'rape' that casual slang way, but I still burn at the memory of how I once told a coworker that my shift had been "completely dead," when that coworker also happened to be the mother of a classmate of mine who'd recently died in a car accident. I wanted so badly to reel those words back in after I spoke them. The best we can do is try to be sensitive when we know better and avoid the use of really graphic, horrible situations to describe casual offenses when we don't (also, always).

  2. I try to tell my students about their casual use of the word rape (I had a girl tell another girl she wanted to rape her shirt because it was cute), but they don't really get it. It's hard for them to understand because their world view is so small right now, but hopefully it will live in their head somewhere and pop up when it's important.

  3. Wow. Great post, Dana! I know I'm guilty of throwing words like those around, but you're absolutely right--we should all watch what comes out of our mouths more carefully.

  4. You are so right. We never know who our words could affect!! Great post!

  5. Wow. I would never think to use the word rape so casually. I totally agree everyone needs to be more careful and sensitive.

  6. Rachel - You'd be surprised at how often it happens, most especially by men.

    Jessica - Your student said that! Oh my. I didn't really get it as a teen either. Guess that's what they call "maturity" ha.

    Ara- Thanks. I didn't want to come off preaching political correctness, I'm just trying to make a public service announcement, you know?

    Nicole - THanks. You could also take the concept of this article and have your "villain" in you book say these things.

    Ghenet - Yes be more sensitive but not walk on eggshells sensitive, that would be to the extreme.

  7. I'm so glad you brought this subject up. I think the term bi-polar is bandied around too casually as well. I've had some students with BPD and it breaks my heart when their challenge is pigeon holed into a mood swing.


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