Notes: Would You Call a Stranger That?

FriendsIf a label would offend a stranger, don’t use it for a friend.

Language is a powerful tool. Words impart information to others, set the mood and even makes us laugh.

There are also lots of words that are used to make people feel set apart and less than.

Interestingly, many of us that would be angered and offended by a stranger using one of these words, use the very same words for ourselves and friends.

Here is an example that occurs with young women. Most women would not stand for a stranger calling them “whore”, “slut” or “bitch.” Yet will refer to themselves and friends by these labels in texts and group chats, even in person. Some people may respond with, “don’t be so uptight,” “that doesn’t mean anything, it is just a joke!”

Well, maybe, but it normalizes the language bit by bit. Just like that poor frog in the pot of boiling water. The water temperature gradually changes and therefore feels normal to the frog. So, it just gets cooked. Similarly, if you repeatedly hear and use derogatory terms with your friends, how long does it take you to use them for or accept them from those that are not? All the while, there is a trail of the word’s original insulting aim.

Other terms fall into this same pattern include; “fag,” “nigger,” “rag head.” Can they really ever lose all of their mal intention even when they are commandeered by the group that that was first meant to be demeaned?

While it is true that the use of these words can change as time and culture evolve, we can and should choose not to use them for either stranger or friend.