The Meaning of Words, Part 2

If anyone really, really, really wants to see my initial rant on this from last Friday, they can go to The Meaning of Words, which should open up in a separate window if I coded that correctly.

Anyhow, a few more disjointed musing. A word of warning: do not presume by reading this that you know the inspiration for any part of this entry. There are many inspirations, and most are not from Dear Diary. Even those that have been inspired by the journals of others are not aimed back at those keeping the journals. All I’m talking about here is the way I see things. Not the way you should see them.


“Sticks and Stones

May break my bones

But Names can

Never hurt me.”

I used to think that was one incredibly stupid rhyme when I was a kid. I’ve grown up now, and still think it’s incredibly stupid. What purpose does it serve to tell a child (or an adult) that Names shouldn’t hurt you? It gives them tacit permission to say what they want, because their words have no weight behind them. It tells them that they are wrong to take another person’s evaluation of them to heart, and need not question themselves and their actions based on another’s reaction.

Oh, I understand the concept behind the rhyme. If you lead a good life, are considerate of others, are open-minded, charitable, easy-going, then to be called “evil, inconsderate, close-minded, ungiving and unyielding” shouldn’t cause you to question yourself. But it will, ironically, sting like hell exactly because you are open-minded, charitable and easy going. Such an attack would cause you to question yourself, look for where you caused offense or hurt, and try rememdy it to make yourself a better person. Only a consumate egoist, who has no need of other people because they take all their pride from a mirror, would be able to completely shed name calling like eggs from Teflon.

Names are not “just words”. In fact, words are not “just words”. They are probably the strongest weapons in the human arsenal. They don’t get the respect of a handgun or a knive or napalm or the Bomb, but they are stronger than all of these. Failure to appreciate this is failure to respect not only the language, but to respect yourself and others.


“Is there in Truth no Beauty?” – Title of a Star Trek (Original Series) episode

Truth is important. Without honesty, words are just game pieces. But truth can also be wielded as a weapon even more hurtful than a lie. I remember no Benjamin Franklin quotes except the “penny saved” one, the “early to bed” one, and this, which I encountered in high school, in the preface of a book of fiction I had picked up at a used book store:

The sting of a reproach is the truth of it.

Reproach – truth used as a weapon. I’m not always good at this, but I’ve tried to keep reproach out of my truths since I encountered that saying, unless I truly wanted to reproach the person I was addressing. If truth has to be cold and ugly, then what purpose is it serving? If truth is not couched in the language of constructive assistence, then there is indeed no Beauty in Truth, and truth has served no useful purpose. I know of no instance where a tongue has ever been hurt by uttering soft words.

I’ve also tried to keep the converse situation in mind; if someone tells me the something, and it stings, then look for the truth of it. Could I have been more understanding? Was I spiteful or hurtful in any way? Is there something I need to re-evaluate within myself? We all have blind spots when we turn introspective. I know I’m no exception. But I can improve.


Words that are not used precisely are dead to the language. – The Salamander

For example, take:

Offend – to displease or anger

Hurt – to cause pain or injury

In the past week I have seen (at least) three instances of these words being used interchangeably, in three different places. They do not mean the same thing. If I say I’m hurt, you can be pretty sure I’m not offended. Unless, of course, I’ve told you I was offended as well.

This is not said to hurt, nor to offend. It is merely Truth.

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