The Power of Words

Words are powerful. With them we are able to express who we are and define and label that which is separate from ourselves. Words have power to hurt or to help others.

In Word Power (a Huffington Post article by Richard M. Cohen) words are shown to be powerful but also dynamic in their acceptability and appropriateness over time:

“Words are loaded pistols,” Jean-paul Sarte wrote. Of course, time passes, and language standards change. What is acceptable at one point in history can offend and leave people in disbelief later. Words also reveal public prejudice toward sickness.

“New York City’s respected Hospital for Special Surgery used to be called the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled. Georgia’s first state psychiatric facility was the Georgia Lunatic Asylum. You could not make those up. They are particularly egregious examples of ignorance disguised as acceptable language.

“The word crippled no longer is tolerated. The Newington Home for Crippled children in Connecticut was changed more than a generation ago. Crippled always seemed neutral to me as I grew up. It seems harsh now. Maybe any word Charles Dickens used is automatically off-limits. Tiny Tim needs a name change fast. Ask a guy on a cane about words. Walk a mile in his prescription shoes.”

Other perspectives on the power of words:

“When you don’t cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, became possessed by thought.”

~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”

~ Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”

~ Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale



    • Thanks. I recently joined a Facebook Group for Moms of LBGT kids. I noticed that some posts used LBGTQ and asked what the Q was for assuming that it was “Queer” and so it is.

      I’ve made every effort to avoid pejorative words for obvious reasons. Because my daughter is disabled and my son is gay, I’m more sensitive about labels and use of words that I had assumed were not “PC”.

      Apparently gays use the word queer within the “gay community” as symbolically “taking back the word”. This is done by the disabled, African Americans, and other minorities I can’t remember at the moment. (Caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet.)

      My issue is that words are powerful and should be considered so by everyone not just minorities who have been mistreated, hated, and/or shunned by society. I’m probably more sensitive than most because reading is how I stay sane. My father was a “wordsmith” and my mother is quite the bookworm herself. Books are sacred in my opinion and should be honored as such.

      Okay, I’m the worst when it comes to going off on tangents so I apologize for the extra-long reply.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Not at all. It’s an important topic and one where we all continue to learn and grow. Words need to educate and share perspectives, otherwise the doors remain closed to understanding and empathy. The sensitive topics are often the ones that need the most air 🙂

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