Saturday, October 22, 2011

Words Often Say More Than We Want

The blind in Korean society have a history of  working in massage parlors, work  as acupuncturists and fortune tellers. Massage parlors  in Korea do not have a  good reputation. It is often a place of decadent behavior, one of the shady spots of our society.
Writing in the Catholic Times a columnist who has been working with the handicapped for many years mentions the effort that was made to change the image of the massage parlors. A massage center was established to educate the public to the  value of massages, making it easier for them to accept its healthful benefits, and gradually the image began to change.

The columnist points out that the words we use for the handicapped are very telling. Before 1981 the handicapped were described as 'deformed for life'. Over time the words 'handicapped' or 'handicapped person' came into use. Some of the words were extremely sensitive to those with handicaps but were not thought to be grammatically appropriate. The writer feels that addressing the handicapped as 'persons with a handicap' or the blind as 'persons with a sight problem' would be more helpful.
The writer has no expectations that changing the words we use is going to help the handicapped in any measurable way. But we are sending a message by the words we use. When we use positive words we are helping to influence a change to a more positive appreciation of the handicapped.
The importance of the words we use in our speech and writing is often forgotten. It is not difficult to know where anyone stands on any issue by the words used to describe those we disagree with; words are loaded with meanings and emotions. It is not easy to use neutral words when writing or speaking, and often the words we use communicate more about ourselves than about the subject we are addressing. 

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