Word Snobbery is a Control Issue

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…” make me the target of violence and shame. Why?

I’m the child of two brilliant humans who surrounded me with books and words. I had many memorized thanks to my father reading not just wonderful children-targeted stories, but Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and other adult-targeted books as bedtime stories. I fell asleep with no boundaries to my dreams. I was quite shocked when I read the books later as an adult. My father edited the daylights out of the more adult-themed sexualities while keeping the wonder and awe intact.

The Sweet Pickles series blew my world open with imaginary friends, each unique and equal. Novels quickly followed. I couldn’t get enough of words, regardless of their mother language. My parents taught me in multiple languages. I learned humans everywhere had words and that they all came from different sources. Etymology was almost a guilty pleasure in school.

There is a dark side. I don’t see any point to it, but can’t deny it exists.

I can’t even count the memories I have from childhood where an adult I was told to respect would glare at me or sigh with exasperation and tell me to use smaller words. I did learn to be snobby about words. I didn’t care whether somebody knew a word or not, only if they wouldn’t learn what it meant and would try to control my vocabulary rather than expand their own.

I also had my mouth washed out or was smacked across the mouth by various adults for using a word they decided I shouldn’t use, not because I was cruel or hateful … but because the word was one they didn’t like. It is still considered ok to violently correct a human’s vocabulary choice, not on the basis that it communicates a thought considered wrong, but because of the listening person’s aversion to it.

I’m angry when word snobbery leads to people being divided into “quality levels” as a result. If somebody says “shit”, another says “crap”, another says “poop” and another says “feces”, and yet another simply sniffs and coughs, unwilling to dirty their lips (pun intended) with a descriptive word at all due to their feeling of the subject matter, I see it as personal expression of individuality and each one as equally valid.

Every word is a human word and is of equal basic heritage and class. Emotional ties and memories can elevate or decimate words for an individual person, but like all personal issues … the fault or exhault lies with the person, not with the word. Word snobbery is personally-justified verbal or written violence and bullying. Words are beautiful and amazing. To sully any word, not for the meaning of the word, but for the letters in it, makes no sense to me.

I challenge you to make up a word. Give it a meaning. Use it. Teach it to others. Then, if somebody snubs it and tells you a better word to use … research the source of the word they give you. Find the human who made THAT word up. If that human didn’t have red blood, didn’t use a brain just like yours and had a researchable superpower, ask yourself what could possibly make their word any more fantastic and wonderful than your word.

If the answer is peer pressure or somebody threatening to wash your mouth out, I dare you to use your word anyway and let the person know they have control issues and then pass this challenge to them as well.

P.S. I’m aware that some adults don’t care what words their children use except that they’ll get in trouble for using them due to current societal perceptions. If you explain to them they shouldn’t use it because it will make them a target of violence, not because the word is inherently wrong, you might be surprised how understanding your child becomes about it. Children learn quickly about violence and bullying. Your child may even make it a mission to fight the status quo. You just never know with kids. They’re pretty amazing.


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