I saw this on Facebook yesterday:
I understand the sentiment and have shook my head more than once at stories of people – grown people who should know better – who are offended and debilitated at the very mention of certain words.
But there are words that hurt. Sometimes they are purposeful and these are the worst kinds. These are shafts that break bone and hearts. Most times, I think, they are not meant to be intentional. But that rarely lessens the hurt.
Here’s one of my many gaffs:
I’m back in Georgia, visiting, and a woman that I knew came walking toward me, limping slightly.
“Hey, Gimpy!” I say.
She kind of smiles and says “Hi.”
“What’s with the leg? Why are you limping around like a wounded deer?”
“Oh,” she says. “I’ve got a degeneration bone disease. I probably won’t be able to walk in a year.”
What in the hell was I thinking? Good god. How about “Hey! Good to see you!”
Here’s another one.
My oldest boy and I are at the store and he is irritating me. What’s new? He’s probably ten or so and I say something like “Maybe you should start riding the short bus to school.” We both think this is pretty funny.
I turn to the cashier to pay and she is standing there, stone cold and staring at me like I’m an insect.
“My boy rides the short bus to school,” is all she says. And I am completely slayed. I don’t even try to apologize. There’s nothing I can say to redeem myself. I slink off like the insect that I am.
Here’s another story about the time Ms. Haft made us all say the F-word in class and then explained that words have no meaning. She was wrong.