The Essence Of Words

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“Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart.”





Commands, names, questions, everything we are comes from words. Since the dawn of time things have been mentioned ranging from before, grunts, to now, full out syllables. Those words, in whichever language, cause conversation. Humans need to talk, it’s how all our information is transferred. I guess that’s why when I sat next to a complete stranger on an airplane, he basically told me his whole life story. He couldn’t hold the information in any longer, so he hit the eject button.

He was silent for the first hour of the flight, and then he talked so much. Thinking back, it’s hard to decipher any of his words or when he said them. Obviously, some parts of the conversation stuck out more than others. Some things he said were more important than others. I remember what he said about his dad mostly. He said that when he was younger he used to call him, “munchkin,” and “squirt,” the normal nicknames one would give a child. And then he said that when he’d gotten older his dad had started calling him “little shit.” When he said that his dad had called him that, the first words that popped into my head was that it was wrong, parents shouldn’t have the right to say that to their children, and then immediately after, it had a name: verbal abuse.

A study at the University of New Hampshire stated that out of over 3000 American children, 63% are verbally abused by their parents sometime in their lives at home. Those children are also more likely to view themselves negatively, and behave self-destructively. During the rest of the flight I was continually thinking about what he’d said, and how that simple name-calling affected everything he does. His self-esteem was in the gutters and he’d developed a twitch in his hands.

He was a stranger to me. We’ll never see each other again. But he affected me in a way in which I now regard myself as lucky. My troubles at home are minimal, and as far as I know my parents haven’t given me an “invisible, emotional scar.” When I asked the boy what he was going to do about it, he’d said he would “deal till college,” and “he could handle it,” and “it wasn’t horrible.” The guy seemed used to the idea of his dad being the way he was, he didn’t feel the need for a dramatic change three years before leaving home. Maybe some of the man’s words could have been caused by the boy’s actions, but nothing needs to be handled in a crude manner, when words are meant to hurt.

Words mean a lot. They can cause outcomes that weren’t originally intended. They can cause acceptance or exclusion. They, on occasion, can cause life or death situations. Whether the words come from someone close to you or total strangers, they mean something and will have an effect.





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emmawu This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm
Please COMMENT!!!!! All feedback is highly appreciated :)
 
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