Last night I read something on the interwebs that got my gander up. I won’t go into specifics, but generally speaking, somebody chose to describe her personal experiences using language that I found to be overly dramatic, and inappropriate to the level of hardship. I’ve heard her phrasology ascribed to other, more worthy hardships, including some of the trials I myself have faced. Certainly HER trial is not the level of hardship of MY trials, and she dared to use the same language!!!
I’m not usually defensive about language, because I think that people only have their own experience to describe things, and if something is genuinely hard for them, it’s not very polite or kind to say, “Hard? You think THAT’s hard? I’ll show you hard, lady!” And everybody learns by scale, after all, and everything looks easier after you’ve been through it and are looking back from the other side, i.e., the older woman who tells you to enjoy these years because they grow so gosh darned fast while your child is trying to simultaneously dump out all of the shampoo in the hair care products aisle and strip so he can run naked through the grocery store.
And I’ve known lots of people who make posts about “What not to say to a [adoptive parent/migraine sufferer/diabetic/new mom/cancer survivor/mom who miscarried/son of a pirate].” Everybody has a story where somebody treated them with grossly insensitive language, and they aren’t stories that fade easily with memory.
Bottom line—language is important.
It took me a long time last night to simmer down, and I thought a lot about why this particular language got under my skin. I think I felt a certain proprietary about it. Only people with THESE specific trials can use that phrase, dang it! I acknowledged to myself that such a position is prideful, exclusive, and narcissistic, and nothing about that feeling comes close to any kind of definition of charity.
I assume that if you are reading this, you’re a blogger, so you care about words. And if you are a regular at Segullah, you probably REALLLY care about words. So I ask you–why do we feel so stingy about language sometimes? Why do we feel we have to earn certain labels, certain phrases, certain points of conversation? Is it just pride, or is there something else going on? Have you ever felt like somebody used a phrase to describe themselves or their situation that they didn’t “deserve”?
If I don’t get back to this discussion for a while, I apologize. I’m on my way to my book club. Where we will be talking about our favorite poems. Yeah, we’re word nerds.