Editorial: Use your words wisely

Our View


Society has a trend of using ethnically and sexually offensive words throughout common conversations.


The “Take it back?” forum was a good event for educating young adults to the misused words and how to clean up language.

Tuesday night a panel of nine addressed the use of slur words like the N-word, gay, queer and retarded at the event titled “Take it back?”

A portion of the panel discussion was focused on reclaiming these slurs.

Yolanda Williams, an African American studies instructor and adviser in Minority Affairs, said society might not be ready to reclaim these words.

“We’re not there yet,” she said.

Whether society is ready or not to reclaim slur words is not the most important factor here. The most important factor is that society recognizes the harm these words can cause.

“These words sometimes sting when you hear them,” Williams said.

Jeannie Ludlow, an English professor and coordinator of the Women’s Studies program, discussed how people use the word queer to mean weird or odd.

“The power to hurt has not been taken away from it (queer), but the meaning has been fractured,” Ludlow said.

The same goes with the word gay. People use the word gay to refer to something as stupid or unfortunate.

There are more than 150,000 words in the English dictionary, so there should be no reason why people can’t find another word instead of queer to refer to something as odd or another word than gay to refer to something as stupid.

Other words for odd people may want to consider: peculiar, strange, unusual and abnormal.

And other words for stupid: dim, dense, obtuse and unwise.

The problem is, though, words like gay, retarded and the N-word have become a part of everyday language – even popping up in the media (i.e. music and movies), which the “Take it back?” panel also addressed. And because these words are so loosely used, it’s forgotten the effect that they can have.

“Our generation tends to act like these things didn’t happen, and even though they may not be so drastic and frequent today, they’re still happening,” Williams said.

Becoming more aware of slurs, their use and their effect is the first step in fixing a problem that has been around for quite some time, and “Take it back?” was a great event to get discussion started on campus.

Words are empowering, and it’s time we choose them more wisely.