Lately I’ve been thinking about language and how we use it. As a writer I find that I use words to denote class and gender differences. For example: John moved about the crowded room clumsily slurring his speech. Now, the real question here is; Is John inebriated? Has he had a bit too much to drink? or is he just plain drunk? It depends. If John is a multimillionaire he’s most likely inebriated. If he’s a middle class guy, more often than not, he’s just had a bit too much to drink and if he’s a janitor who has guzzled down a bottle of Evan Williams and talking loud, he’s probably drunk. Now, none of this is really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, I mean, inebriated, drunk, shit faced–the bottom line here is that John is impaired in some way. The point is that words shape every fiber of our being – the way we handle situations, our purchasing power, how we view ourselves.
The other night I was watching a commercial about bowel issues. Now, I;m familiar with constipation and diarrhea but now we have things like sluggish bowels(okay, so things are moving slow) the there’s irritable bowels(my guess is that there’s a bit of constipation and diarrhea with this) but inflammatory bowels? No bowel issue sounds good but inflammatory bowels implies that you’re having the usual issues and may require the use of assistance from the fire department.
I find myself asking questions like: What factor determines whether you’re indisposed, unavailable or just plain using the bathroom? When is a person horizontally challenged, heavy set, plump or just plain old fat? When does a person have a drug problem? Or an issue with drugs? When are they an addict or strung out? When do we call it a lectern and when is it just a podium?
Words are amazing. It’s al around us and don’t you just love the way certain words just imply other things. Example; The word “fat” implies ugliness, aromatic displeasure and lack of self control. Isn’t it possible for a fat person to be a person who watches his or her diet? Isn’t it also possible that said person exercises regularly?
I guess I can go over board some times. Once I passed a building that had a huge sign that read “THE BLIND PLACE” I was outraged. I thought they could’ve come up with a better name. Then I found that it was a business that sold window treatments.
Well, in the words of a great friend of mine, words may not be the best but they’re all we have.
Let’s talk again soon