Words Have Power – More Power If You Forbid Them

I am absolutely tired of being told you can't use this word or that word as you're writing. 

The simple fact is that a word alone is nothing. It doesn't call down Satan, start Ragnarok (South park reference here), or mean that you subscribe to the meaning someone else assigns to that word.

My book, The Bottle Tree, is rife with the use of the word "nigger". Why? Because it is the word used in the time period and with the people who are the subject of the story. The book has an object lesson involving the term, unintentional though it was, and to use any other word would have been the equivalent of what the courts do when they want to rule a certain way, intellectual dishonesty.

The griping about the word "thug" has my dander up now. Many people's ire was raised after Seattle won their Super Bowl and Richard Sherman went on his rant, causing many people to call him a thug. I personally thought that was an appropriate description of his behavior. Not because he was black but because he acted like a thug.

Recently I saw an op-ed on Huffington Post written by a college student expressing her awe at Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, espousing how they were heroes, and then denigrating the use of the word. 


Slapping down footballs, running with a football and being able to throw a football don't make someone a hero. It may make them an overpaid athlete, but performance on the field alone has nothing to do with whether someone is a hero or not. At least not to me.

But whether she regard various football players as heroes isn't my real beef, she, nor anyone else, has any right to say I can't use a word because their interpretation of it insults them.

I can understand it with the word "nigger". That is a word which is and always has been a derogatory term aimed at someone with a particular ancestry. However, as Whoopi Goldberg said when comparing that word to the current politically correct term "n-word", "this idea that taking it out makes it somehow better is ridiculous. It’s a part of the culture. Let us speak on it…the word is real, and if it makes people uncomfortable you have to deal with why it makes you uncomfortable." 

Before anyone gets all huffy or boycotts me, I'm not saying you should use racial slurs to refer to people. I'm just saying first, that censoring something gives it more power, and, second, you don't get to take words that are not racist and turn them into something racist.