Words matter

This is reposted from Guiding Your Special Needs Child.

People who know me well know that sometimes when angry I use impolite language. I’ve been known to say things that the average person would find to be profane, even obscene. I’m not proud of it; it’s something I struggle with.

Nevertheless, there are words I cannot bring myself to utter, words that I hear other people use almost routinely. Many of these other people happen to be older, but it’s not required. Many of them would be horrified if a teenager nearby dropped the “f-bomb” (I can’t say that I approve, but when you get right down to it, it’s just a crude word), and yet have little or no problem uttering a word that definitely leaves certain members of the human race feeling degraded, disrespected, dehumanized.

The N-word, as it is called, has almost dropped out of usage, and I am glad. I know that some rappers use the word in a defiant manner, and even that usage makes me uncomfortable, but at least they are practicing the strategy of subjecting a denigrating term to the kind of use that can turn it on its head. (Did you know that “Christian” was considered a derogatory term by Greeks and Romans who first used it? The early followers of Christ adopted it, though, and turned it into a term of honor.) Most of the few people I hear using the word these days at least seem to have enough sense to act a bit ashamed of it. It is so distasteful to people that we have, as a society, even shied away from the legitimate word that it twists and dishonors: Negro. The latter word carries with it the potential for offense, and hardly survives in the English language except in the names of such great organizations as the United Negro College Fund–and even there, it is hard to find the actual word, since almost everywhere except in the “History” links, the Website simply calls the organization, UNCF.

Not so a similar term that I hear people of all ages using with impugnity, a word I can hardly bring myself to utter and that equally denigrates a huge population of humanity, at least in their experience and their family’s. Students in my college classes, and even members of my own family who I know love my daughter, use the word “retard” or “retarded” to describe ideas, institutions, television shows, and all manner of other things they consider to be imperfect or lacking, with no apparent concept as to how it might affect my daughter if she were present, and certainly affects me.

The slang version of the term happens to be spelled the same way as the legitimate version. The effect for others is that they do not experience the word as demeaning the way the N-word is; the effect for me is to make the legitimate version as jarring and insulting as the slang version, so when we receive a letter from one of the state agencies that provides services for my daughter, and I have to open a letter from the “Department of Mental Retardation,” I feel a bit slimed, even though I know quite well that the people who work there work hard to help us take care of her.

Not out of political correctness, but out of concern for others as compelling as that which has driven the N-word underground, and out of the abundance of other more appropriate words to describe either the actual condition or perceived inadequacy and imperfection, I would like to ask you to join in the effort to eradicate the R-word from common usage. To see more about this, please visit the page put up by the Special Olympics organization. As it says, “Change the conversation… stop using the r-word.”

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Take the time

 

This will strike some as too personal for including on a college blog. So be it. It deeply relates to one of our main topics: communication.

My cousin died in a car accident over the weekend. Your cousins may or may not be close to you. My family in many ways has never been close, but on the other hand I had no brothers and sisters, and my cousin was born within two hours of my own birth. He was the relative I was closest to growing up, though we lived an hour apart.

We’ve kept in touch mostly through third parties–my mom would hear from his mom, etc. I kept meaning to talk to him, but I kept thinking I’d spend some time with him at the next family reunion. Thanks to life challenges in both our lives, though, as well as the fact that no one in our family bothers to organize family reunions, that never happened.

I didn’t even find out he had been killed until yesterday, and the funeral in West Tennessee was this morning. Opportunity gone.

He has had a tough life. We could have helped each other. Coulda woulda shoulda helps nothing and no one.

Communication doesn’t just happen. It takes effort; it takes consciousness; it takes attention. Is there someone you need to talk with? Do it today.

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The market as communication tool, and how government garbles the message

You may think at first glance this post is about politics. It’s not. It’s about communication. It’s about how a garbled message leads to inaccurate results. It’s interesting to think about both the bailouts of the Bush administration and the Obama administration, as well as the cranking up of the Treasury printing presses, as noise in the channel.

John Stossel may make too much sense in his post “Government Sets Us Up for the Next Bust.” But it’s worth reading it all the way through.

Just for some basic background, here’s a post entitled “Does Government Spending Bring Prosperity?” Prof. Greaves may have written it in 1975, but its truths still hold today.

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When you open up a channel…

…expect people to use it. I’m not completely sure where this falls in our categories, but I’m sure it has something to do with communication:

fail owned pwned pictures
See more pwn and owned pictures.

Thanks to Bryan Booth for the heads-up on this one.

At the same time, I found a great example of unintended messages:

fail owned pwned pictures

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Intergender communication explained

OK, I really don’t have time to be doing this, but I cannot pass up the opportunity to post this link to a layman’s explanation of intergender communication that would likely fit perfectly within the excellent research of Deborah Tannen. I believe it is destined to become a classic.

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