Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Awareness is key

Common phrases can be insensitive

Benjamin Tan

Benjamin Tan

By Emily Brooks, Collegian Contributor

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It is always important to be cautious with what you say around people. You never know who may be easily triggered, upset or made uncomfortable by your choice of words. Phrases like, “I’m going to kill myself,” “That’s so gay” and “That’s so retarded” should never be said, even in a joking light. Each of these phrases can easily hurt or otherwise offend anyone around you.

Personally, the phrase I hate hearing the most is “I’m going to kill myself.” Since college can be rigorous and stressful, I tend to hear it very often. The other day as I was leaving a 400-person lecture, I heard a student say, “I cannot believe I have two more classes today. I’m going to blow my brains out.” Although, my mind was preoccupied with other things and there were multiple conversations going on around me, those words were the only sound I heard.

Although the student obviously did not mean to offend anyone around them, it is crucial to always think before you speak because you may not know the power behind your words. According to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, approximately 105 Americans die from suicide every day, which is now the third leading cause of death among Americans from 15 to 24 years old.

Another phrase that is not acceptable to say is, “That’s so gay.” I hear it used frequently because it has become a colloquialism in today’s lexicon. I used to not think anything of the phrase, and I will even admit to saying it a few times myself. But I never noticed how the bigoted phrase could cause harm until I realized how it affected the people around me — especially people I love.

When people say, “That’s so gay,” they are typically saying it with a negative connotation. Usually, the person speaking is using the word “gay” to describe a person or something that they perceive to be stupid. One of the most important discussions about this subject I’ve had was with my best friend’s sister who is gay. She pointed out that when people say this phrase, they come off as uneducated and rude. The phrase is hurtful and insults the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ community is far from stupid, so why use the word “gay” to describe something stupid? This community is strong, large and full of people with pride, so it is important to treat them with the respect they deserve and stop using the word “gay” negatively.

The Mariam Webster dictionary defines “retarded” medically as “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development.” On the other hand, Urban Dictionary defines the term as: “‘very stupid’ but in a more hilarious, weird, and/or spontaneous way.” A retarded person is someone who has real-life mental disabilities, so why are people using the word to describe people without a disability?

I hear people using that term a lot — usually to describe something stupid or dumb. For example, somebody may say, “That professor was retarded!” No, the professor does not have a mental disability, so why say that?  When you are saying the word “retarded,” you are saying that people with disabilities are dumb. You are insulting a large group of people, including the people with disabilities and their friends and family.

The Spread The Word To End the Word campaign is an amazing effort to raise awareness of how hurtful that word is. According to the organization’s mission statement, “[their] campaign asks people to pledge to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect actions.” Everyone should take the pledge and spread the word to end the word.

The words you say can hold a lot of meaning to others, so it is important to always be aware of what you are saying. It’s easy to avoid saying words that will hurt the people around you. You never know what someone is going through or has gone through, so please be respectful.

Emily Brooks is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Awareness is key”

  1. Kim Doherty on February 21st, 2018 9:59 am

    Your article is spot on. Too many times we speak without thinking of how our words can impact others. I hope that your article is well received, and makes a difference in how we choose our words.

    [Reply]

  2. Mary Beth McDonakd on February 21st, 2018 11:26 am

    Very well said, Emily. Since I work with adults with developmental disabilities, the negative tone when using the word retarded is something I highly resent. Thank you for pointing out how powerful words are even when we don’t mean them to be, thinking we are just being flippant or funny.

    [Reply]

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