Choosing words wisely


Gwyneth Shoecraft

The power of words cannot be understated. Words can act as peacemakers. Put together properly, words can inspire nations or heal a broken heart.

Words can also be dangerous: They are the most powerful weapons. Sure, they are not the mechanism that drops the bomb or fires the bullet. But when strong words work together, they can instill anger that inspires acts of violence.

I have often debated the consequences of using dangerous words. However, I am no enemy of expletives, and have never had my speech described as “conservative” or “lady-like.”

However, there are a few words that I do my very best to avoid using. These words are terms that are inherently or culturally hateful and discriminatory.

Yet I respect the right of people to say those words. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of free speech.

I also understand the argument that if we say these words often enough they will lose their power, and become as mundane and harmless as certain expletives have now become.

However, some words, if left unused, simply disappear. Like an itch left unscratched, you ignore it until it no longer exists.

This is the true strength of words: They are so adaptive and malleable that they can not only change their meaning, but also eliminate themselves from our language. But this takes a lot of time and many changed minds.

Gillian McGoldrick, a high school newspaper editor from a small Pennsylvania town, knows firsthand the power of words, and how hard they fight to survive.

McGoldrick has made national headlines for refusing to print the name of her school mascot. The name, which I too will not print, is also the name of a professional football team from our nation’s capital.

The young editor has been suspended from her position, all for her refusal to perpetuate a word that is, though historically significant, nothing short of racist. She has shined a light on a word that no one thought about as harmful until she bravely called “bull.”

McGoldrick reminds us all that, though words are powerful and will fight to stay alive, they are never as strong as the people who use them.

Words are symbols, and we are the symbol makers. We choose what to say and how to say it. As words enter and exit our common language, let’s purposefully force out those terms that no longer suit our progressive world.

Let’s find more creative ways to construct statements without relying on low blows and discriminatory terms.

Whichever words you choose to use, choose them wisely.