Words can hurt, don’t leave a scar on others

As kids most of us remember chasing each other on the playground singing, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This statement could not be more untrue. 

I can’t even count the amount of times a day that I hear words like “retarded” or “gay” used as an adjective to describe something lame or stupid. 

Unfortunately, most people have grown so used to saying these words that they don’t think about what they are saying, nor do they realize the actual meaning of their words. Even further, they don’t think about who may be offended by their use of these terms. 

Let’s face it. It is nearly impossible to be aware of the backgrounds of everyone you talk to or who may hear you talking. Therefore, you never know who may take offense to a word you use. 

The worst part about the use of these types of words is that when you look at their origin and their intention, there is nothing negative or offensive involved. It is unfortunate that over time, the actual meaning and intended use has progressed to negative insults and an adjective to describe something unfortunate or gross.

As someone who grew up with an amazing brother who happened to also have special needs, I can honestly say I have never used the word “retard” in a derogatory way. In fact, I hardly ever use the word at all, politically correct or not, due to the connotation it has acquired. This particular piece of my background not only impacts the words that I choose to use, but it also causes me to notice every single time a word like this is used. Chances are … I won’t take personal offense every time I hear someone use it. If I did, my life would be incredibly difficult, and I would be a much unhappier person because of it. Instead, I choose to ignore it and have to assume that they are ignorant to the meaning of the word and are simply unaware of what their words can mean to someone.

The fact that a word referencing a medical condition and disability has now become a synonym for stupid is just sad. In no way does having a mental disability have anything to do with a person or situation stupidity or unintelligence. In many cases, we could take a lesson or two from someone who, in spite of all challenges and obstacles, are able to face life with positivity and joy. 

I urge you to think about the words that you choose to use. I am not naïve enough to believe that these words will stop being used entirely. Not even close. But, I do hope that we can all be aware of the words we are using, and understanding that they may not come across as a funny joke or remark like we intended. 

Take the time to think about what you are saying and what your words actually mean, because what you say matters and words do make an impact. Contrary to what the saying says, words can hurt you, and others. 

 

Madison Anderson is the Opinion Editor at The Collegian. She can be reached at [email protected]