Watch Your Words: The Dangers Of Weaponised Language

weaponising words

FROM time immemorial language has both been a supreme blessing but also a damn curse in terms of what can result when words — even so-called simple words — are deliberately abused or when they become the subject of partisan utilisation.

Most of us have heard — or been told — that wounds made by words are hard to heal.  Whereas a physical wound hurts because someone slaps us or gives us a punch, it tends generally to go away (heal) after a while. The hurt/s delivered by words tend to linger in memory — thus adding to the stored negatives which may already lie there just waiting for appropriate provocation.

When I was young in some countries it was against the law to call someone a “bastard” because doing so suggested/implied that the person so-called was/is illegitimate.

These days many marry — or legalise their unions/relationships — when they discover that there is a baby conceived. But it is also necessary to acknowledge that unlike in the past — even the recent past — when pregnancy before marriage was severely prohibited and scorned, these days this syndrome has become widespread and often serves as the prelude to marriage.

By the same token because sexual activity is these days assumed to be a given among most adults in our communities — rife among our university students — it is necessary to therefore allow for a kind(er) attitude and acceptance of “accidental“ pregnancies — especially among students of tertiary institutions.

This, however, does not suggest that pre-marital sex is condoned by all and many bear the serious consequences of bearing guilt and/or also the conceived child. 

Charged Language

Societal norms and mores have always been subject to great upheavals even if the majority in any given context adamantly stuck to the “rules of engagement“, so to speak. Whether in war or sexual conduct the understandings which underpin human relationships do tend to vary enormously, frequently leading to a different basis of formal acceptance and/or rejection.

Thus, the attractive trinity of race, religion and language must not only be handled and treated with utmost care and responsibility, but it also needs — nay, demands — that honest and scrupulous thinking through prior discussions be initiated before publication of any sort (written or verbal or even gestural).

From time immemorial it is Language that has most markedly been the bane and basis of countless squabbles and quarrels and wars.

This is simply because language labels and brands, so its usage has to be carefully monitored.

The countless fights that history reveals pertaining to abuse and mis-use of words that connote — deliberately and provocatively or otherwise — is not only a gruesome witness to our human nature of frequently responding/reacting without thinking (hence why these days the need for so-called “due diligence“ has become paramount) but also a timely reminder that words are dangerous. 

Plurality And Its Issues

And this applies to ALL communications and ALL communities — much more so — obviously — in our plural societies where values are just one aspect of contentious debate among and between members of different races and religions and languages.

The presence of plurality always poses challenges; often these challenges cannot be resolved by fiat or even by simple legislation. Millions are spent by contending parties in legal suits that drag sometimes for decades, and even when final judgments are passed, there is little or no satisfaction either to one party or both or all involved. 

Politicians expose themselves and their people to serious risks as well as imminent danger if and when people feel that words used have been taken too casually or even too seriously. And sometimes compromise in understanding is extremely difficult and this inevitably results in provoked emotional reactions.

Thus, the “weaponisation“ of language — though not new by any means — must be abided by sensitivity and through good disposition. 

When in doubt — as all my teachers used to advise — please resort to the dictionary.

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  1. very insightful, wish I had a coaching clinic like this at the onset of my professional career 30 years ago


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