Words have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom, a real estate paralegal, was the mistress of words. I wrote a ton of poetry as a kid. I won spelling bees in grade school. I grew up to be lucky to have a job that often requires me to use the right word at just the right time. I know that I’ll be a happy girl if I can spend the rest of my life wrangling and shaping words into just the right message.
I love a perfectly worded sentence. Reading something that’s well-written makes me so happy. And, I consider myself very fortunate to have been on the receiving end of words that have taken my breath away and swept me off my feet.
Words have amazing power. They bring together. They divide. They beg. They sell. They scream for your attention. One word can change your life. Words can hurt. But the right ones can heal. String a couple together – like “I love you,” “you’re hired,” or “it’s over” – and someone’s world is forever shifted.
As a mom, I’ve become a decorated member of the Word Police. Never did I think I’d have to so closely monitor what words another person heard and what words they said. In fact, I’ve had many conversations with my sons about words that they should never use (like “stupid” and “shut up,” among others) and words that they must use as much as possible (like “please,” “thank you” and “how can I help you?”).
My son had a point when he asked me recently who decided that certain words are curses. Even at age 8, he can see that words only have power when you give them power. “What if someone decided that ‘apple’ was a bad word or that ‘baseball’ meant something else?” Well, then mom would give you a hard time when you used them. Ah, another question to which I had a meager response.
I’m constantly conflicted about slang words. I would never advocate for the regular use of words like “ain’t” but other words have become so ubiquitous that they should just be officially added to the lexicon. The editors at publishing giant Merriam-Webster seem to be happy to jump on the bandwagon when slang words become a fad. In fact, in 2011, “buttload” and “bromance” were added to the dictionary. It makes me chuckle, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re just dumbing down our language.
As I type these last few words, I wonder — what’s your favorite word?