Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, said that when people use words carelessly, they often unintentionally allow well-guarded truths to seep through.
A few years ago, a woman I am acquainted with created a small uproar on the social scene when she publicly referred to county people as “hicks from the sticks.” Her poorly chosen words created hard feelings when her comments made their way outside the city limits because many of those “hicks” she referred to were her husband’s clients.
The incident brought back a memory from many years ago when another woman in another town complained that she didn’t want her children going to school with the county children who rode the bus. That group included my two best friends and me. She referred to us as “little country urchins.”
My friends and I overheard our parents talking about the woman’s words as they considered the best solutions for our education. The “country urchins” label might have stung a little, but we had Nancy Drew books to read and episodes of Dark Shadows to watch. We were too alive with curiosity and a sense of adventure to be terribly daunted by her words.
In spite of being seen as guttersnipes by a woman with delusions of grandeur, we grew up to be intelligent and creative women making our own livings. We also developed a social consciousness and the ability to see beyond ourselves. Sadly, life was not as kind to her.
I’ve never read a book by Jodi Picoult, but I came across a quote from her that I admire. She describes words as being like eggs “dropped from great heights.” “You can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall,” she warns.
Lest we all end up cleaning a nasty mess, let’s make the effort to choose our own words carefully, and let’s expect others to do the same.
Marian Carcache welcomes
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.