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