The Power of Words

09 Mar

This is not a political forum, nor is this post political in any sense. However, I will make a couple of references to political events, and if you find that offensive, you might stop reading right now.

I’ve been thinking today about the power words have–to hurt, to heal, to control, to inspire. This week, the news is full of the way words have been used. For example, Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown law student a “slut.” Nobody calls another person a slut unless they want to hurt that other person. That’s the nature of that word. Whether or not you agree with Rush’s statement, sentiment, or world view, he cannot go back and say anything that will take away the hurt he caused.

On the other hand, people can change how words are viewed. Today I watched a video in which two female musicians take the word “slut” and make into a badge of honor.You want to watch it here.

So now, we can all go around thinking about that word as an acronym for, say, Sassy, Liberated, Unfettered, Testaments to womanhood. Or something along those lines.

My point is, language is supremely important. I could give more examples. Like how in Idaho our legislature failed to even send to the floor a bill that would allow transgender/gay/lesbian people the same protections from discrimination in housing, jobs, and business as other people have. Just a few words would make a world of difference to many, many people. Or the contraception bills sprouting up all over the place. Or the bills such as the one in Virginia that will require invasive intravaginal ultasounds for women seeking abortions.

Words. They have a huge impact on lives. On human beings.

That’s why I am proud to write for young adults. I know words have power. And I know these kids are paying attention, probably more so than most adults. My 15-year-old son said to me yesterday that the older he gets, the more interested he becomes in the news, politics, current events, the rest of the world. He has reached that developmental stage where he can see how it all relates to him.

That is why I take such pains to craft my writing for young adults in such a way that I don’t convey judgment, hatred, or condemnation. I want to suggest to them that at least one person in this world sees them, understands them, and accepts them for who they are. I hope that comes through in my words.


Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Idaho, power, teen fiction


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6 responses to “The Power of Words

  1. Marsha R. West

    March 9, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Absolutely, words are powerful. They can be hurtful, uplifting, or leave us empty. As writers, we do have a special obligation to take care with our words, both written and spoken. Good for you for being accepting of young people. Tough times for most of us that would have been made better by a friendly nod or smile telling us we were okay the way we were.

    It takes courage to be the voice that speaks up for those being made fun of, but if we’re silent, we are a part of the problem. Finding a way to speak (or write) those words so as to not make the situation worse is a huge challenge. Because it is though doesn’t give us an excuse not to attempt to stem the uglyness. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  2. Janis McCurry

    March 9, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    I always laughed at the OLD saw “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” The saying talked about the pain of physical harm versus mental pain. I laughed because names/words absolutely hurt me! That saying was wrong! We now know that mental pain is worse because it’s often unseen, undiagnosed, and untreated.

    We should all take care.

  3. stephanieberget

    March 9, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    What an important subject. Janis is right. Words have the power to cause great injury. Pain that takes years if not forever to recover from. I’m having trouble envisioning the word slut being used for a badge of honor in any way.

  4. Peggy Staggs

    March 10, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    I’m with Janis. Words are the most powerfully form of hurt. The pain of a cut or bruse fades, but a scathing word can live with us forever.

  5. gswguest

    March 11, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    Yes, there is a lot of power in words. May we always remember that.

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    March 12, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Great post, Neysa. I agree that it takes maturity to recognize the power of words. You must be very proud of your boy!


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