Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Power of Words: The Other F-Word

Many people think I’m weird about words. “It’s just a word,” a counselor friend declares – attempting to convince me that it’s fine for children to curse. I don’t agree. Even while teaching adults, I often stopped students in hallways and common areas who were dropping f-bombs to let them know that educated people should have attained the use of a broader vocabulary than f-ing this and f-ing that. It simply makes people sound ignorant, in my opinion.

When it comes to my children, I’m even more vigilant about what they can hear, because what goes in may eventually come out. With my oldest, I managed to prevent him from even hearing the f-word until he was ten. That wasn’t easy to do. It meant heavily restricting his movie-watching, friends, and most-importantly: where he went to school (private Christian school). Then one day, it happened. I left him with a trusted sitter, someone I’d known forever and trusted. She, apparently, thought nothing of saying it in front of my kid. And he came home and proudly repeated it. Theory confirmed (what goes in comes out).

But the real f-word is much more dangerous, in my opinion. The word is “fool.” I remember the first time I heard someone use the word – in seventh grade as we were heading for our after school buses, a worldly kid shouted at another boy, “You’re a fool!” A felt icy cold air around me. I felt certain that boy had just signed himself up for hell.

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
- Matthew 5:22

When I was around fifth or sixth grade, some of my peers started using the word “idiot.” When my folks heard us kids using the word, they put a stop to it, pointing out that idiot is synonymous to fool. I later came to realize that most insults are also synonyms of fool. So are there any safe insults to hurl at people? Is this the point of Matthew 5:22? Don’t insult people? Don’t call people names?

Although, I’ve overcome my past enough to realize much of what was taught and widely accepted was not biblically accurate, I’m still terrified of words like fool.

And worse than fool, is the taking of God’s name in vain – which, to my mind, I confuse with blasphemy. Maybe I’m incorrect about that, but I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. Truthfully I’d prefer to hear the f-word a million times than to hear someone take God’s name in vain.

What do you think about the power of words? Harmless or very potent?


  1. I think that the power of words is very potent. And I am very religious so I completely agree with you.

  2. Hi Suz,

    The power behind words are powerful. If more people were more cognizant of the meaning, people would use the words in such a way they were meant to be. So to answer your question, potent. Thanks!

  3. I agree with you. My grandmother has often said something similar about people using curse words and other "bad" language having a narrow vocabulary. As an editor, I've realized that when read to mean their actual definitions, the contexts in which people place them don't work at all. Take the f-word. Put that in a sentence, then replace it with its actual definition, and the sentence no longer makes sense. In fact, it might even be ridiculous! Unfortunately, I don't feel I can push my editing clients to seek alternative words and phrases for a few reasons, one of which is that it would come across as my personal bias (not based on grammar, style, or punctuation guidelines) being imposed on another author's work. I'm not their teacher or parent, just a contractor who's been hired for a job, so I don't feel I can be "the curse police," even though sometimes I'd like to be.

  4. The old "sticks & stones" thing comes to mind, but it's the exact opposite: the power of the body to heal physical wounds is almost automatic, but words can leave wounds that will never heal on their own.

  5. Hello, I think you are 100% right about words. My question is about taking God's name in vain, I often hear people say "OMG" and I wonder if it is just as bad to say the letters as the word, do you have any thoughts on this? Kim

    1. Hey Kim,

      Do you suppose that there are some people that say "OMG" and are meaning to say "Oh my goodness"? That isn't such a bad statement, I am not condoning using the Lord's name in that context, but meaning "Oh my goodness" isn't such a bad thing, just a thought.

  6. OMG is similar I think to when people say Frickin....
    I guess we are only fooling ourselves.
    Everyone knows the implication.


The catchpa has been removed to enable easier commenting. Spam and irrelevant comments will be deleted.