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The Impact of Language

If you can read this without thinking “politically correct” and rolling your eyes or sighing you have achieved an open mind.

Words have connotations and denotations.
Denotation is a literal meaning of the word
Connotation is an association (emotional or otherwise) which the word evokes

Take the word “cozy”. We know it denotes warm and comfortable. Now what feeling or emotion does it bring to mind? Is it a pleasant word to you? Some will have an image of being on the couch with a quilt and pillows sipping a warm cup of tea. One woman told me it was an unpleasant word to her because it made her think of small places and she was claustrophobic. Either way there is an emotion evoked and the word takes on more meaning than just a definition.

Take the word “handicapped”. Defined it is having a disadvantage that makes doing something more difficult. To some this is the definition of disability. For others the word is offensive compared to “person with a disability”. Whether true or not, it has been suggested this word started when beggars who were disabled were in the streets with their cap in hand – begging for their very survival, well of course they could not work. Not such a good connotation. For me it is an old word from a time having a disability was like an end to life instead of a change in life.

It’s not that we can never slip into those words out of habit, it is just an awareness that sometimes words undermine what we want. A person is reduced to only their disability with words like epileptic, diabetic. Oh sure you won’t get counted off for grammar, but what else are we loosing? An actual person with a name?

Get rid of the R word like the civil rights movement got rid of the N word? I am going to.

Where does it end? Hopefully never and we keep looking at ourselves and thinking about how what we say can impact ourselves or others and we all just keep getting better and so does the world.

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