There are a few words that my child knows I will not tolerate being uttered.
Fat. Stupid. Retarded. Hate. Ugly.
There may be a few more, but I can't remember them offhand. For the most part I usually only hear these offensive words slip out when my child is repeating something he heard.
And one day, he repeated the mother load - all of the words in one paragraph - because he heard another child say all these words describing another child.
"Why are these words so hurtful, Mama?" he asked. "They say sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. But those aren't kind words."
How do you explain something to a child, when most adults don't even get it?
I didn't know how to tell him some people are insensitive, don't realize nor care how hurtful the words they say are or think it's funny to make others feel bad.
And sometimes people are just mean.
I hate the word fat because I have been called that before. It was no great mystery to me that I was a fat kid.
Mama and Granny had the hardest time finding me clothes because of my weeble wobble shape, until Granny announced Sears had a "Pretty Plus" and "Husky" section.
Not exactly words you wanted to see on your size label when you were a 10-year-old girl.
It didn't help when Granny would holler across the store that she couldn't find corduroys big enough to fit me. I am pretty sure there was a legal weight limit in the early '80s for corduroys anyway.
Ugly is in the same word pain family as fat. It's being hypercritical of someone's appearance and making fun of something that is purely subjective. I think everyone has their own beauty - something that comes from inside, an inner light - regardless of what they may think they see in a mirror. Their souls make them beautiful. And I have seen people that were traditionally attractive reveal their true selves to be downright unpretty.
Retarded and stupid are just insults when people can't think of more creative words. Hearing someone label another with these phrases is disgusting and upsetting. I find them particularly reprehensible when they are directed at a person who maybe struggles with learning or emotional disorders. I've never heard stupid stated without an undercurrent of negativity. No one likes to be made to feel less than worthy in any capacity.
To say you hate someone is one of the most abhorrent things you can say. Hate's pretty strong and even as angry and mad as I have been at people -some who probably were worthy of hate - I never could bring myself to say I hate them.
These tomes, these mere words are cruel descriptions that are flung without conscious regard to how they hurt.
Once they are released from our lips, they can never be taken back. And we never know what damage these thoughtless words may leave in their wake.
I can tolerate some swear words better than I can these words. These words make my heart heavy and make me feel icky, especially when they are used to characterize someone.
How would we feel if those words were directed at us?
Use words to describe things, not people.
Wouldn't it be better to say we hate the circumstances, or that a disease like cancer is too stupid to spread?
Why not try describing people, each other, with kindness and the spirit that we want someone to use when talking about us.
Sticks and stones may break bones and words may never hurt us, but they can leave scars that last a lifetime.
Personally, I'd take the sticks and stones any day.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the recently e-published novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."