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Friday, 26 June 2015

Sticks and Stones

There is a famous saying, that most of us learn in primary school, which goes:

"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Although this may be a slightly round about way to come to this conclusion, when studying the poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen, I admired the way in which he took the saying 'Dulce et decorum est' and subverted it, to play on the words in a way that effectively made the opposite point. So, with that in mind, I would like to do a similar thing, in this post.

When looking at the first part of the phrase "sticks and stones will break my bones," it reminds us of the animalistic start that we as humans have had. We are thrown back to a time, when warfare in the playground meant rough and tumble, petty scrawls that were over in the blink of an eye. This can even be said to be true now, where fights are generally over in the matter of a few punches, it is perhaps the momentum of the fight that is carried forward, less so the physical brawl itself.

However, what I would like to focus on, in this article, is the second part of this saying, that goes "but words will never hurt me." Whilst I appreciate that at the time this was said, we were living in more tame and simple times, I would now like to work to change this saying, to something more generation appropriate.

Essentially, if you believe this saying, then you are, even without realising it, advocating the idea that words are harmless. This is an approach, that I now deem here to be incorrect. In a society particularly like today's I can see all around me the power that words have. It astonishes me the power that a combination of twenty-six letters can have on anyone. By minimising the effects that words can have, it does something more potent- it minimises the effects that people feel. It makes people feel as if they don't have a right to feel hurt or crushed by the poisonous words of someone else.

Whilst I can see that words will never have the effect of physically bruising someone. You will never walk away from a conversation with stab wounds next to your heart. I can however assure you, that anyone reading this who has been the victim of someone else's nasty words, will know that they would rather a punch in the face any day.

I think that most of the time, we are so oblivious to the effect our words are having, and whilst most of us strive to only use our words for the good, through the form of compliments, or biting our tongues when it is not appropriate to speak (see a previous post). Most people are more relaxed when it comes to thinking through the consequences of saying something that could bruising someone inside.

As a generation in a society where we are used to seeing the immediate effects of something, we often neglect to realise that whilst the results of words may not be seen in the here and now, that does not mean that your words aren't having an effect.

That is why, I would like to propose an amended phrase that would be a more helpful reminder to everyone:
"Sticks and stones will break my bones, just as words will also hurt me"
Using this quote, I hope to remind people that just as we will always see the results of a fist fight, wherever we may be, we will not always see the results of vicious words, but that doesn't mean that they won't be just as deadly.

-LF, LR and MG