Home > The Monday Musings Column > What’s in a word? Usage and Abusage of our Language

What’s in a word? Usage and Abusage of our Language

Several years ago I was sat on an aeroplane sweltering as we waited what seemed an age in the queue to take off. Having pushed back on time we took nearly an hour to get to the runway, “I hate these moments” I said to my companion, but then I thought some more. Do I really hate anything? There are certainly a lot of things that I don’t like to varying degrees, but hate, no not really.

We have gradually begun to use far stronger words than we really mean just to emphasise a point; the TV channels talk about “All New”, when only the storylines will be new and the same old cast will be on the same old set, but that’s just a harmless advertising puff, whereas using words like hate when what we mean is to strongly dislike, for me, have a darker context.

I think that we start to lose sight of what the real meaning is and therefore cease to be concerned about how abhorrent that should be. Atrocities that are committed in the name of religious or territorial beliefs often involve real hatred; these are things that we should be concerned about, and so I decided that I would moderate my language and thinking accordingly to eliminate the expression hate from my daily vocabulary.

These are small steps and perhaps they don’t add up to much, but I see a lot of snap judgements made in the context of a very binary view; if it’s not good it must be bad and so on when what is really the case is one of shades. Just because a friend says something that you don’t agree with do they suddenly cease to be your friend? There is a worrying trend to suggest that this may be true in our world of social media where you can follow and un-follow, friend and un-friend with the prod of a thumb and I see this as unhealthy.

Not long ago here in the UK we celebrated our monarch’s lengthy reign with a major pageant, but the weather was poor and I Tweeted that maybe we should have sacrificed a republican, meaning in our context here one of the anti-royalists, to the weather God. It was a tongue in cheek Tweet in any event, but I lost quite a few followers on Twitter that day. When I analysed the change they were almost all from the USA and included a number of openly Republican people; Oops. I had not meant to offend, but was that reaction a considered one, or the worrying kind of knee jerk response that leads to people over reacting, especially as they had entirely misunderstood me?

Communication is two way and we are often misunderstood, but such misunderstandings should not lead to extreme reactions for surely it is better to check what was really meant first? Even if it turns out that you didn’t misunderstand then the choice as to how to react, or whether to be offended, is yours to make, so make it wisely. And use that wisdom when you choose your own words.

I have changed my own ways to try and be more tolerant and to try and build on the values that I was taught and learned in the earlier stages of my 60 years here on Earth. I have stopped using words like hate and try hard to eliminate the self-indulgence of anger. Does any of this make any difference? Well it makes me more content and I hope that it makes a difference to those that I come into contact with.

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  1. December 17, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Have to admit to laughing out loud at the idea of American Republicans immediately think you were are talking about them

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