A year ago, when I was doing a school gig with a friend, teaching students about spoken word, I instructed them to avoid cliches, saying peppering your spoken word with some boring phrases was "lame." My friend, who suffers from arthritis and can't get around very easily, later told me using the word "lame" is inappropriate and ableist, and I should choose another word there.
And I have. And I will continue to do. Because I had to break out of a nasty habit of using language that may offend people.
I used to say "lame" or "lamesauce" a lot, slotting them into conversations or emails. I sometimes threw in the odd "weak", But I began to identify the poor choice of words I was opting for, when I had so many other words to select in place of those disrespectful words.
It's hard to break out of language habits. When we talk, we essentially freestyle, and don't have the time to sit and think about exactly how we want to express ourselves. And so we pepper our convos with words that could hurt others, but I've always found it's key to be self-aware of what you say. So much of how people perceive you is based on the words flying out of your mouth, not just how you look or present yourself.
Thanks to my friend and my dedication to tweaking what I say that year ago, I no longer say "lame" or "weak" and can't even remember the last time I said "retarded". As a writer, I value how language evolves and as someone hoping to be better than I was yesterday, I value learning how to be a more respectful wordsmith.
About David's Blog
I write about journalism, freelancing, the arts, Toronto, technology, sports and why egg nog is under-rated.