It has been said that a cargo pilot is akin to a truck driver in the sky. And as a former cargo pilot with an extensive vocabulary of expletives capable of bringing a rosy blush to the cheeks of even the most grizzled of ancient mariners, I am wholly resigned to the undeniable fact that there will be a day one of my children is sent home from school for using a “bad” word. I will then be, in turn, forced to defend my personal philosophy on “bad” words to school officials. That should be about as much fun as a root canal.
While I do believe words are powerful and can be used with the precision of a skilled surgeon’s scalpel or the blunt force of a neanderthal’s cudgel, the real power comes from the intent behind the words. Calling me a “bitch” after I steal the parking spot you’ve been circling like a vulture for the last half hour is completely different from calling me a “bitch” after I point out that, as your flight instructor, I’m going to need a little more flare in the next landing to ensure the continued and uninterrupted operation of the nose gear. Neither example makes “bitch” a bad word. It’s just a word.
Language is a living thing. Constantly growing, evolving and becoming more than it was, it is a never-ending symphony of communication used in some form by every living thing everywhere, from the smallest blade of grass straining to express it’s love for the golden warmth of the sun to the ethereal and alien beauty of whale song. And a single word can evoke an almost visceral reaction from us, not only due to the history and emotion steeped into it, but because of the intent behind it’s use. But in the end, it’s just a word. How we choose to receive it is up to us.
The next time the boy calls me “stupid,” which I’m sure will be sometime in the very near future on a fairly regular, almost habitual basis, I could be reduced to a blubbering fountain of tears or I could recognize the anger and frustration behind his outburst and address the intent behind the word. Hopefully, I will someday successfully convince both of my children that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…unless I let them.”