Wednesday, March 5, 2014

celebrate March 5th the right way...improve your vocabulary

Today was a national holiday; [Tangent: No...not national cheese doodle day...even though, it is indeed that... so go make your favorite sunglasses sportin' cheetah very pleased and consume his product.] Today was National "Say the word to end the word."

You may be wondering what word it is talking about [Tangent:...because frankly, if it were entirely up to me the term "slider" would be terminated. ] Today is a day that focuses on bringing awareness to the rampant and wrongful overuse of a word that is hurtful to many. The word is "retarded" or any form thereof. [Tangent: I don't take pleasure in even typing that word...but I will use it only once in the post, and hereafter call it "the word".] 

I am instinctively not politically correct, and I tend to be liberal on people's choice of words. I've never cared if someone calls me disabled or frankly even crippled. I was raised possessing a very sticks and stones mentality, so frankly until about a year ago, I thought people who got offended by such things were just overly sensitive. As someone who claims to have an extensive vocabulary, I shamefully admit that I would recklessly use "the word" to describe a lot of things I deemed dumb or pointless.(movies....people...phrases...books...the word "slider.")

Being a communications major and someone who writes, I know that words are powerful and sometimes you need a specific word to communicate a certain thing just the way you want to. I get it.  The problem is when the choice of words brings hurt to a person. Then all bets are off. [Tangent: Historically there have been a lot of words that fall under this umbrella. Words like the N-word were once commonplace and used by even the most educated of people, but today you would never dream of using that word because you know the pain it has caused.]

Maybe I never took the time to kick this habit because prior to last fall, I have never, as an adult, had someone in my daily life with an intellectual or developmental disability. I have never seen someone personally affected by "the word."  Then I met Claire....someone I can attest is neither "dumb" nor "pointless."


Isn't that one of the most precious faces ever ever to hit your eyeballs?  This little beaut is the daughter of my best friend, Kristen. [Tangent: When Claire was still cookin, her mom and dad learned that she was going to live her life with Down Syndrome. It was not an easy time for her family or those that loved her family...not because we weren't so excited to meet Claire and see that adorable mug...but because we knew that her life would be harder than most.]  At this point, she has been on this earth for almost 5 months and it's a little early yet for her to have been personally affected by "the word.". She has not been made to feel "less than" because of it. It hasn't had a a chance to make her cry or make her doubt the incredibly amazing quirk of nature that she is  [AKA Superbaby]...and I don't want it to.

The day I found out she was going to be living with Down Syndrome, I made a personal pledge to stop using "that word." Dropping one stupid hurtful word from my vocabulary has been a surprisingly easy habit to break...everytime it even tries to roll off my tongue...I picture this lady...


...then it is impossible to utter it. Since eradicating it from my personal dictionary, I have also become so keenly aware of how much it is used by people in my life. It's a term I hear daily in all kinds of environments. [Tangent:It's not always maliciousness...just sometimes people, like myself, who are ignorant of it's effects.]  Every time I hear "the word" spoken, it almost hits my ear in a strange tone...like a dog whistle. It hurts and makes me sad that I was not more careful of my words earlier. [Tangent: I tell my 2 year old niece to use her words. Why wasn't I taking that same advice?]

I consider myself very lucky to have her in my life...it only makes me wish everyone had a Claire to make them better and teach them to use their words more carefully. 

7 comments:

  1. Oh my cuteness!! I love her. :) And I'm completely on board this campaign! My students quickly learn there are only a few words that I will NOT tolerate, and the R word is one of them.

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  2. she is painfully cute!!!

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  3. My Mom works for a non-profit that supports people with developmental disabilities. I haven't used the R-word since I was a kid as a result... I know too well how hurtful it can be, and how amazing our world is with more diversity.

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  4. Brilliantly stated. I am in no way above being an ass or being kind of dickish with my words. It is probably a direct result of the fact that I am probably the LEAST easily offended person on the planet. It has only taken me 31 years to realize that others may not be the same way...I guess better late than never.

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  5. Yeah, I will admit that it's very difficult to stay politically correct with ever-changing terms that occur from time to time. It used to be okay to say dwarf to refer to a little person because dwarfism was the medical terminology at the time. Or stewardess to flight attendant. All kinds of stuff. It's hard to keep up. But I try.

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  6. I think when people try to be TOO PC, they can sound awkward. I get that...and it kinda all depends on the person. Example, I think the term "differently abled" is super clunky and confusing and when people use it, I always tell them that they don't have to...that they can instead say I have MD or am in a wheelchair or am handicapped or whatever. However, that's just me.

    Also, in college, I roomed with a girl with dwarfism. The term dwarf (at least in 2003-2004) was A-OK and actually preferred. The caviat is, the person has to have diagnosed dwarfism. If the person is just short, they are not necessarily a dwarf....they could just be a "little person" or "small in stature." Ex: Everyone 4'10 or under are considered little people, but some are just short and don't have a form of dwarfism.

    Fun fact: According to that medical guideline- I am a little person because I am exactly 4'10...but not a dwarf. (I don't associate myself as a little person...I have enough labels so I say I am 4'11.)

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  7. Exactly! Like someone once didn't want to ask if I was Asian for some reason, so they asked if I was of Asian-Pacific Islander descent... CLUNKY. Just say Asian! As long as you're not saying Oriental to describe a person, you're fine. It's like people who are afraid to say "black" but don't realize that African-American doesn't work for all black people, and that black is simple and perfectly acceptable.

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