Magic Words

Forget the juvenile topic of ghosting, though. Isn’t the belief in the magical properties of the spoken word at the root of the toxic culture that is devouring the Anglophone world? People are incapable of demanding any action from their elected officials because they are so fixated on the words. Ads for mother’s day refer to mothers as “birthing persons.” Pronouns in email signatures. The acronyms. The belief that not naming every single miniscule group in your acronym is akin to physical destruction. The idea that words cause “literal harm.” The rabid insistence that calling yourself a woman makes you one.

All of this brought to you courtesy of the same culture that invented “ghosting” because nobody is capable of getting a hint.

6 thoughts on “Magic Words

  1. YES! For years I have entertained the idea that one of the main reasons for the awful development of the Anglo left is that the movement is completely dominated by people who literally work with language (academics, journalists, writers, activists), and so they are completely conditioned to: a) assume language is more powerful in shaping the world than it really is; b) see everything as “text” where everything has a meaning and everything is symbolic is some way.
    A couple of years ago I realized that outside these circles people don’t use words with unwavering precision all the time and, while they might be aware that words have complex histories, they don’t obsess about these all the time. And guess what? This doesn’t mean they are murderers or that they don’t care about other people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We were reading a Latin American novel this semester, and I constantly had to explain to students that it’s normal among friends – especially male – to do some verbal jousting, crack jokes, say ‘insensitive’ things. It doesn’t mean you are enemies. To the contrary, you can only call another guy cabrón without getting your skull cracked if you are friends. I just couldn’t explain the concept of being playful with language.


  2. “belief in the magical properties of the spoken word ”

    It really reminds me of the evil eye – the idea that mere intent can cause physical harm. Speech codes and tortured phrasing such as ‘vulva havers’ are incantations to keep the evil witchcraft at bay.

    Given the speed of cultural decline I’m fully expecting spectral evidence to make a comeback.


  3. Reply to “Magic Words”

    I am reminded that Mandarin Chinese pronouns are completely ungendered: she, he, and it are the same word. This does not make Chinese culture not male-dominated.


  4. I wrote on roughly the same theme from a lawyer’s point of view: ‘Magic Words,’ or Too Much? in the November, 2012 issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin:


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