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Bruno

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can truly hurt

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by , 09-05-2013 at 04:18 PM (4039 Views)
I know, this is not how the saying goes. But it should. Recently we had a situation where someone was upset that we deleted his post because he used offensive language. Or as he said it: people say he has a potty mouth, but he sees it as just using the words of a language to express himself, and words don't hurt.

This made me reflect. That concept of 'sticks and stones' is as common as it it wrong. Yes, sticks and stones may break your bones. But that can heal. You can learn martial arts to prevent it from happening. You can prove it happened and there are ways of dealing with it, from taking revenge to lawsuits. And it is indeed correct that the word 'apple' cannot physically hurt me. However, that doesn't at all mean that words are harmless, or cannot inflict far greater damage than sticks and stones can ever do.

'Terrorist'. 'Pedophile'. 'Infidel'. 'Sinner'. 'Traitor'. 'Patriot'.

There are people abducted, tortured, imprisoned, killed because some clerk somewhere saw fit to take a handful of facts and interprets them a certain way. Whether it is true or not, whoever gets the short end of the stick can only go along for the ride, wherever it takes him. Because once the label is applied, that person loses all rights. All because of a single word.

There are teachers today who can never find work again, because someone started a whisper campaign and mentioned the word pedophile. Or maybe not even said it out loud, only implied it. Whether it is true or not, the whispers will follow that person into the grave. He may never know who started them or why. I know at least one teacher whom this happened to. In the end he was cleared and it turned out to be a case of revenge for bad grades. Too bad the whispers don't go away. My best friend is a teacher, and so afraid of this word that he takes measures to never be alone with little kids. All because of a single word.

Some terrorist organizations bomb or shoot groups of people just because their big wahoonie labeled them as un-people. Traitors deserve to be summarily executed, and partiots are beyond repoach. You can't argue with patriots because that is unpatriotic. You are not a traitor are you? Are you with them or with us? What? People? No they're not people. They're labels. See the terrorist label? Nothing to see here, just go along.

Those are just a half dozen of the words that scare me to death when used in a certain context. The true insidiousness of words like that is that they are used as labels. And human nature is such that once a label is applied, it is exceedingly hard, if not downright impossible to get rid of. This is why I always try to choose my words with care, and try to provide enough context when dealing with sensitive topics.

The pen IS mightier than the sword. The sword can kill a man; The pen may order a missile strike or approve a forced psychiatric hospitalization. Pain fades, words can linger forever. So be careful with words. And when you are here on this website interacting with people, remember that we are all people instead of labels. As long as we remember that we are talking with people, things will be allright.

Updated 09-05-2013 at 04:21 PM by Bruno

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  1. edhewitt's Avatar
    Very, thoughtful Bruno, and I can honestly say I completely agree. With regards to the first part, yes the language is broad, but knowing when and how to use it to express yourself articulately without being offensive seems to be a dying art.
    With regards to the second part, as a man (and a father) I feel under more scrutiny around kids that women are. Not that I really mind, I would far rather that than not, and maybe that feeling is just self imposed, and maybe women feel the same way, maybe its just a product of today's society.
    Too many maybes, but thanks Bruno, I enjoy reading stuff you have written, it is well thought out and considered.
    MickR and sharptonn like this.
  2. Razorfeld's Avatar
    Thank you Bruno. Most explicit and to the point in a way that can't be easily refuted. As a person that didn't always fit in the middle of what or when ever I suffered through, as Shakespeare put it, "the slings and arrows" but not of fortunes but words. I applaud the clarity of your writing.

    By the way, as an aside. There was a fairly recent study done on foul language and older people. It seems, that in general, as we age we tend to relax more in our use of swear words. Not that it is done consciously but the mental prohibition seems to lessen with age. I find that to be somewhat true in that I have found myself using bad language more frequently in everyday conversation and have to self-censor milli-seconds before I utter it.
    sharptonn and edhewitt like this.
  3. carlmaloschneider's Avatar
    Interesting. I don't normally stray on to the main page but tonight I'm glad I did.

    The whole scenario depends on the, well, scenario.

    It depends on the word and the context. I mean, I think these days, at least in the society I live in dropping the 'F' word won't get you sacked.
    I also agree those labels can shock one.

    However, sometimes you need to give someone a slap across the face to wake them up, and language can do that. It can be nice and it can refresh. Language is fluid, and, like freezing water, can wake one up.
    edhewitt likes this.
  4. edhewitt's Avatar
    Carl, you are right the scenario is, well the scenario.
    And yes, sometimes saying what someone doesn't want to hear is exactly what they need to hear.
    However context is more than important as well as circumstance. I would need to know you to tell you to f off, knowing that you would know that I still cared for/about you. Look at the baby steps/toing and froing, that were used to form our relationship (i almost put relationship in inverted commas, but it seemed a bit ridiculous, we are both grown ups). If I had just gone at you in the forum, without some sort of something else, you wouldn't know what to think.
    Now if I had labeled you as whatever, openly I cannot take that back, and I cannot stop that from being taken out of context.
    I think modern "conversations" (ie forum/ facebook banter etc) can and have been very damaging to some, what has been said can be glossed over etc, that which is written, especially in an open arena cannot be refuted as easily, and in some cases at all.
    I am sure we both know things about each other that we would prefer weren't put out for public viewing. But the modern generation (gosh that makes me sound old) really don't seem to think like that. There have been a few instances of people loosing their jobs due to what they or their friends posted on facebook around where I work.
  5. Bruno's Avatar
    It is all about context. Across me is sitting a colleague who is 15 years older than me. Together we are a bit like stattler and waldorf, always grumping about things and especially about each other. What we say to eachother would be grounds for immediate termination if they were taken from one context (2 people who know eachother well, and who are equals when it comes to burning) and transferred to another context (for example me and the insecure girl at QA helpdesk who doesn't talk with me often).

    That is why zero tolerance policies are universally stupid, because they don't take context into account. But that is rather different from the point of my article. The above paragraph is more about profanity and interaction with people.

    There are times when you need to be firm. But even in those cases, you rarely find that labels are accurate, even (or especially) the loaded ones like terrorist. You can be firm without calling people things that are not accurate. When you do, you are intentionally dumbing yourself down and blocking yourself from rational arguments.
    edhewitt likes this.
  6. edhewitt's Avatar
    Sorry Bruno, may have been swerving off course a bit. I think we are all working our way to the same point though, some of us might just be stopping off along the way. (by some.of us I might mean me )
    Bruno likes this.
  7. leadduck's Avatar
    Thank you, Bruno. Nuff said.
  8. foldedandhoned's Avatar
    Words are interesting things. They are a way of simple communication and also loaded to mean something entirely different that is esoteric to the speaker. Your post, Bruno, lead me to believe that you have a hell of a lot more going on in your soul than you posted.
    Profanity is just the tip of your ice berg.
    The greatest writers have all been profane but were so in the service of the telling of the human experience.
    I use profanity liberally, I like it. I find it colorful. It rhymes and is honest.
    You, sir, should look into your heart and find out what it is that makes you want to judge others and then use a platform such as a blog to berate them.
    BTW, having a blog does not make you a writer nor an authority on any subject, especially the human experience.
    All the best,
    Folded
  9. Bruno's Avatar
    Interestingly, you don't know me from Adam, and you think you can accurately 'judge me'?

    In case you missed the entire point of my blog post, I was not talking about profanity. What triggered the ideas behind this post was the statement that profanity is ok because 'words don't hurt'. However, the post itself is about how words CAN be used to hurt, and much worse than actual sticks and stones.

    Emotionally charged words are also often abused to make people lose focus of the topic at hand. Is that 'honest' as you call it? I think it is not. If a gifted speaker twists words and uses them like a whip to drive a mob into a frenzy, is that 'honest'? No, it is not. It's never honest and rational words that rule a mob. But emotional rallying cries do. If you want to belong to a group of people that acts rationally, then the only way is to be rational yourself as well.

    I want groups of people to behave rational. Especially if I am a part of that group. To that end I wrote this blog post. Most of the senior members here want the same thing, actually, which is why we have a large group of likeminded senior members and staff, and why the owner put me in charge as an admin. I don't 'rule by force' to decide how things go around here. That only works for a short time. Decisions here are usually taken with a near unanimous concensus. My blog is a way to give the interested onlooker an idea of what goes into the decision making. It's not a pulpit from which I unilaterally decree how it shall be.

    People are free to have a different opinion. If you think profanity is great, you can certainly use it wherever you want. Except for here on this site, because the concensus is that we want a profanity free place. That was the original decision by the original owner, Lynn. Over time, the people who stayed are the ones who (among other things) like this concept.

    As for being a writer? Who are you to say I am not? I have written an published many things, both online and in print. And in this position of administrator (and staff member before that) I have dealt with many people and many facets of human experience. I've dealt with thieves and con men. I've dealt with people trying to create problems for others, I've dealt with the problems that arise over jealousy, profit, and a number of other things that motivate man. That doesn't make me an expert, but it does make me qualified to say that I have some idea about human nature in general , and this forum in specific.
    anthogia likes this.
  10. Jimbo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by foldedandhoned
    Words are interesting things. They are a way of simple communication and also loaded to mean something entirely different that is esoteric to the speaker. Your post, Bruno, lead me to believe that you have a hell of a lot more going on in your soul than you posted.
    Profanity is just the tip of your ice berg.
    The greatest writers have all been profane but were so in the service of the telling of the human experience.
    I use profanity liberally, I like it. I find it colorful. It rhymes and is honest.
    You, sir, should look into your heart and find out what it is that makes you want to judge others and then use a platform such as a blog to berate them.
    BTW, having a blog does not make you a writer nor an authority on any subject, especially the human experience.
    All the best,
    Folded
    And what exactly makes your views on the matter any more valid than anyone else's? Allow me to educate you on one major point regarding these blogs and this site - Bruno is an Administrator. For all intents and purposes, and certainly as it pertains to you, this is his house and these are his rules. If you do not like those rules, please feel very free to vacate the premises.

    James.
  11. foldedandhoned's Avatar
    Wow,
    I could very well vacate the premises but I chose not to. My ideas are mine as well as my interpretation of Bruno's thoughts. If you side with him in a devotee way then so be it. My views are not a rule and in no way do I impose them on anyone. You seem to hold the title of "Administrator" in high regard. In your mind Bruno is untouchable.
    I will abide by the rules because I want to be part of this community, but I will not nor do I abide censorship.
    I promise not to use profanity or to use this form in a antagonist or defamatory way.
    I'm just an honest man who calls it like I see it and am perfectly willing to enter into debate with anyone at anytime.
    Bruno answered my post and I agree with him. I was a bit half cocked, as it were, and sent a more emotionally charged response than I should have. My apologies Bruno. Nuff said.
  12. aaron1266's Avatar
    That is just the best poetic mumblejumple written in any "altered state"! I salute just that!