As a professional communicator, you could argue that my speech should be more skillful than that of most other people. Frequently it’s not. This month, I’m working on removing some hurtful words from my vocabulary, because that old saying about “sticks and stones” is just not true.
It’s very embarrassing to admit that I have used these words as an insult. If you know me personally, you know that my everyday speech can be flippant, sarcastic, and laced with new and old pop culture phrases. I even say “Dude” in conversation—another habit I need to break. Maybe it’s a rebellion against the formality of language required for my work. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, it’s not an excuse call things “retarded” or “lame”—especially since my circles of friends and family have included many people who are both physically and mentally challenged, some severely so.
I was bullied on and off as a kid, and I do remember how that feels. Yet my careless speech could be considered a form of bullying. I was punishing groups of people who have specific physical or mental conditions as I criticized things that had nothing whatsoever to do with them: a movie I didn’t like, a meal that was bad, a style of clothing I thought was unattractive, and so on, ad nauseum.
I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. Times were different. Over many decades, my friends and I have worked to shed the entrenched language of racism, sexism, homophobia, and many other forms of intolerance, which we may not have learned from our liberal parents, but which pervaded our society. And in more recent times, we worked with our kids not to use insults like “that’s so gay.” My point is that this is the kind of habit I already know how to break. So I’m working on it, diligently.