Happy Wednesday Scribblers. If you are here in the U.S. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you’re checking in from elsewhere around the world I hope you had a great week. Now we march on to Christmas and to the New Years, I thought I would talk about something I have mixed feelings about. Word Police and Word Censorship.
As a writer, words are important and words have power. With a few strokes of the keyboard excellent writers can make you laugh, they can make you cry, and they can even make you angry. With that kind of power, authors have a responsibility. For me, I appreciate when my Editor or my Beta Readers question my word choice. When they highlight something and say, “You may want to change this.” or “Wow! That is harsh, are you sure you want to say that?” When they do this, I stop and check what I’ve written to see if it fits with the character or with the emotion I’m trying to invoke. Sometimes I change it and sometimes I don’t.
How we say and use words is just as important. As a Human Being, I never want to intentionally hurt someone with something I’ve said and if do. I expect the person to politely correct me if I miss speak. It is a moment of learning and a moment of decency we can share and grow from. Where I take issues, and I don’t believe I’m the only one, is when people try to censor words. Or, censor someone from expressing themselves because you don’t agree with the words they are using. Not everyone has the same vocabulary. Not everyone has the same upbringing. Not everyone has the words to express themselves professionally or politely. To come after these people because you don’t like their word choice is wrong.
Words, in general, only have the power we allow them to have. If you get offended by the use of a word, you give that word, and by extension, that individual power over you. Why? Why are you doing this? Why are you letting someone hurt you because of a word they use. Yes, words hurts. I understand that. I’ve been on the receiving end of some very hateful words, did it make me happy to hear those words? Of course not. But, I didn’t allow that moment, those few seconds, to ruin my day or my life. Again, I understand that words can hurt people and we need to think before we speak.
Where I want to make the distension here is when people take offence to the use of a particular word.
Recently, I was in a meeting where the word ‘picnic’ was discussed. There was a conversation about how we can’t use that word because of where it came from, the argument was that ‘picnic’ came from when people would gather for a lynching by caught slaves. After a quick search online this was debunked (here is the link). However, by now the damage was done and people were upset. It’s a word, and the reference was false, yet word has been censored and we are no longer able to use the word ‘picnic’. Why? It’s just a word. But because someone might be offended the word is now censored.
Why do this? Why add to the hate? Why make things worse then they already are?
Another example of world policing is the phrase ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegal immigrant’ these words have been removed from several media sites and in ‘polite’ conversation because of its negative connotation. The new word of choice is ‘migrant’. I understand why we are doing this. I’ve heard the arguments ‘people can’t be illegal.’ In theory I agree. People cannot be illegal, however, their actions can be. Again, why does this matter? Why are we censoring words and phrases for these generic terms that have no meaning?
Let’s keep throwing gasoline on an already touchy subject, by attacking people for using the wrong words when trying to discuss the issue. Makes sense to me. Not!
Now we have this push for pronoun use. If you don’t call an individual by the right pronoun you are disrespecting them and treating them as less than. I understand if you want to be referred to in a certain way that is your right and people should respect that. I respect you for having the courage to be yourself. You are braver than a great many people. Where I have take issue is these people will scream and yell at people for not using their chosen pronoun. This is especially upsetting when it happens to the older generation, who may not fully understand what the issue is. It’s not that these people are monsters or trying to disrespect you, it’s that they don’t have your point of reference or understand your point of view.
There are other examples I can point to as well, but I’m sure I’ve already upset people for my lack of sensitivity. Which isn’t my intent. The comedian Patton Peter Oswalt has an amazing standup bit about this subject on one of his Netflix Specials (I can’t remember which one, they are all really good). What he boils it down to is; It’s not the people who don’t speak politically correct we have to worry about, it’s the ones who know all the correct, polite terms who we should fear.
I agree with him.
Next time you get offended about a word, phrase or pronoun someone is using as yourself a couple questions: Are they trying to hurt me? Will this ruin my day? Is this a moment to educate them? Do I want to give this word or phrase that much power over me?
Well Scribblers, if you’re still reading this, haven’t yet unsubscribed to my mailing list, or gone on to give all my books 1-star reviews I thank you for hanging with me today. Allowing me to share my thoughts with you. I appreciate it. I would love to hear what you have to say on the matter. Do you agree with me? Am I completely off base and out of touch? Am I an insensitive prick who should be burned at the stake? Let me know in the comments below. Until next week have a great week. Remember, you can share and like this by clicking on the ‘share’ and ‘like’ button. It really does make a difference.