Jena Schwartz: The power of language

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Published: 10/1/2023 6:01:05 PM
Modified: 10/1/2023 6:00:08 PM

There is much I agree with about guest columnist Jim Palermo’s argument that evolving our language alone does not single-handedly alter reality, that we must foster resilience over fragility, and that if we are solely focused on saying the “right” words, we are missing the boat. [“A safer world for euphemisms” Gazette, Sept. 9]. In a different parlance, one might say that some of the words and phrases he identifies are used in ways that are merely performing social change rather than actually engaging in it. This is certainly worthy of exploration, i.e. where and how do we use language as a replacement for analysis and action?

However, the writer misses the point of the power of language to acknowledge and affirm people’s life experiences and identities. An example is the word “microaggressions.” Just ask anyone who experiences microaggressions on a daily basis. Likewise, Palermo’s argument that “calling an individual person ‘they or them’ may actually identify the person as being different, rather than being a person whom we are called to love, include, honor, and respect, regardless of gender or sexual orientation” leaves me confused. Using they/them pronouns for an individual person who identifies as nonbinary simply affirms and respects who they are. What better way is there to “love, include, honor, and respect” any fellow human than that?

Jena Schwartz



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