Choosing words wisely seems to be lost art

Published 4:30 pm Friday, April 13, 2018

You could argue this is the biggest understatement of all time, but here it is: Language is important.

Word choice and tone can make all the difference. How we say something is often just as critical as what we say.

That seems to be somewhat of a lost concept in today’s world of 280-character tweets, status updates on the hour and attention-seeking sound bites.

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Restraint and analysis of language are certainly lessons many of our politicians could stand to learn from. President Donald Trump and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin need to go to the front of the class.

Now, before anybody gets too worked up and thinks this is partisan political commentary, let me calm you down. This is about word choice, diplomacy and how the things we say can build bridges or build barriers.

It just so happens that we currently have two shining examples of what not to do in the POTUS and Bevin. Don’t for a second think that the Democrats are fault free. Hillary, Bill and a host of others are just as guilty.

For Trump, examples go back to the choice of the word “wiretapping,” the size of his inauguration crowd, calling the press the enemy of the people and as recently as this week when he threatened Russia with bombs that will be “nice and new and smart.”

Bevin has a pretty good history of poor word choice as well including recent comments that teachers are selfish, short-sighted and show a thug mentality, statements he has since backed off of — sort of.

The problem is harmful words and language like this polarizes positions and rip our communities apart. Talking tough is one thing but being callous, cruel or reckless is something far different.

There is a quote — often attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill but also somewhat disputed — that sums up perfectly what many of our public speakers seem to be lacking.

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

Now, that doesn’t mean our elected officials should be telling everyone to take a vacation in H-E Double Hockey Sticks but it perfectly illustrates the difference in the thought process between someone like Churchill and many of our modern politicians who seem to fall on one extreme of solely catering with lip service to their supporters and special interest groups or being so blunt that it goes well beyond brutally honest to fall somewhere in the realm of dangerous and insulting.

And it is not just politicians. We see it from celebrities, professionals and every day citizens.

We can all do a better job of choosing our words wisely.

Another quote, from an unknown author, may be just as important to remember.

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.”

To anyone who spews vitriol and venom, all I can say is bon appétit.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6452 or by email at