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Words Carry Meaning


This week the word of the week, clearly, is “shithole.” And it reminds us that the old adage, “Stick and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is simply not true, because words carry meaning. And meaning—what we believe in —is literally more important to humans than life itself. Hence, our willingness to sacrifice our lives and the lives of others for our beliefs…which are , of course, constructed out of words. Words have power. Words can hurt. Words can kill, as the Hutu’s use of the word “cockroach” during the Rwandan genocide, and the Nazi use of the word “Ayrian” during the Holocaust amply demonstrated. They used words to enflame, separate and denigrate – which is polarization. Polarization weaponizes words, turning language into a tool of division, rancor and anger, and in the process, poisoning the power of language as a tool of understanding, reason and thought. Americans, above all, should be wary of this because we are a nation held together not by tribal ethnicity or geography (blood and soil), but by the hope and promise of words, of rational discourse—specifically the meticulous arguments of our Declaration and Constitution. That’s why it doesn’t matter which side used the snippets of name-calling quoted below. The damage to America is done simply by going there at all.

When reading these examples, check the above list and ask yourself: regardless of whether you agree or disagree, is this really advancing an intelligent resolution through the persuasive, rational arguments of advocacy…or simply fueling the fire of conflict through the divisive, emotional manipulations of polarization?

Here are some of the week’s most polarizing words and phrases, from the left and right:
























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