Respectable language is more effective than insult


Print media are in a survival mode under the onslaught of digital technology.  So I am happy to see its participatory nature of the page called “Roasted and Toasted” of the Lethbridge Herald. People write a few lines anonymously about their appreciations and complains.  It is popular.   However, I don’t like anonymous rude comments made of others.  It is not only aggravating but also useless.  When an offensive word is thrown at me, my immediate reaction is to stop hearing.   Rudeness stokes resentment and entrenches resolve.


Words have become cheaper nowadays, even meaningless.  But they could be deadly: verbal insults provoked men to kill each other in duels; heretics were burnt at stake because their language did not conform to the doctrine.  Prohibiting their language, Canada nearly destroyed First Nations by rejecting their identity and dignity.  Language represents not only culture and tradition but also the person’s identity.  Hence, words can destroy people.  Then why some of us are so quick to call names?  We can learn a lot from societies that are still in a state before the age of advanced technology and ubiquitous advertisement.  They may be backward in technology, but could be more civilized in humanity.

When I was doing double-duty as Dean of Students while teaching at an university in Africa, I came face to face with a culture that still recognized the importance of civility in language.  Once a student verbally insulted a woman behind the counter of the university cafeteria.  He was taken to the village court called Khotla.  The chief gave him a month in Jail.  So, he didn’t graduate that year.  Meanwhile, another student had a fight and stabbed a local boy with a non-life threatening injury.  The same chief sentenced him merely to six lashes.  Verbal Insult on an older person is a serious offence worse than a physical attack in Basotho culture.  An aging beggar is still addressed “Ntate” – “Sir.”

Today, words are even cheaper because of social media.   Law makers are the worst role models in language use.  I wish political parties stop personal attack-ads.  They don’t change minds: they only fortify already held prejudices.  Can we not be more civilized in what we say?   There are ways to be critical without being nasty or rude: respectful words could be more effective in communicating messages.

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