“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”

It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by we, the little victims, but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew for a certainty it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. They have no other purpose on earth but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters. It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything.

hate speech is not free

Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? Both. Words have power.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? (Oh yes they can, yes they do.)

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hate word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots, stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were no mere slips of the tongue. They were not caused by drugs or drink. You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me.

People who talk hate never do so by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. It isn’t okay.

Excuses are not repentance. Don’t give bigots a second chance. Be politically correct. It’s not merely political correctness. It’s also the moral, righteous, decent, civil, and humane way to behave.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.


  1. I agree that free speech should not be free. We need to be held accountable for our words and the media, in printing certain comments that promote hate and prejudice and violence is in effect supporting those sentiments. Incitement to hate should bring penalty. Judy


    1. I really don’t think our free speech amendment was ever intended to protect bigots and hate-mongers. I also am always suspicious of people who feel “political correctness” is the problem and not the people who spew hate. I feel they are just looking for an excuse.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, words can hurt for sure. But what I worry about is saying something in ignorance, or without consideration that causes hurt. The intent to hurt was not there just a blabbering idiot (me) who went on talking with my mind not in gear.


    1. You know, in all the years of being a minority and then being married to another minority — it doesn’t happen. People know exactly what they are saying. It’s NOT a slip of the tongue. It’s NOT an accident. That’s the excuse, but it’s not the reason. Not in my experience or in Garry’s.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is the more intimate interactions, especially in family situations, that one is likely to say something that may hurt others. I’ve had it done to me but I don’t think the one who said it had any idea that it bothered me. I just let it slide like “water off a ducks back”. But it hurt none the less.


          1. The personal “spats” are still the most difficult for me. That’s when things are often said in anger and quickly regretted. I guess this is a life long work in progress.


            1. I bite it a lot. Unfortunately, it is usually too little, too late. But again, that’s personal. It’s not because I’m a bigot or a hater. It’s because I’ve got a temper. I’m not a name caller, but I have a sharp, often caustic tongue with a sharp edge. Again, that’s personal. There’s no bigotry or prejudice fueling it.

              Liked by 1 person

    2. Saying the wrong thing is not the same as hate speech. We all blunder. We all congratulate someone on their pregnancy only to discover they aren’t pregnant (both Garry and I have done that — but ONLY once!!) It’s NOT the same thing. Hate is a specific thing. It has it’s own vocabulary and it is INTENDED to wound. Huge difference. Huge.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for saying it so well! I am just a Mick who grew up in a Dago Wop neighborhood. And we knew it. And said it. We also knew how to hurt each other with “names.” And that also included “sissie,” “freak,” and “fag.” I was taught that I was also a “Bohak” from Bohemia, NEVER a Slovak. We were “Czech.”


    1. I suppose if one is going to sling ethnic insults, it’s important to be correct. I remember a favorite scene in “SOB” where someone calls Robert Preston a shyster. He says: “Madam, a shyster is a crooked lawyer. I am a quack!”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you about the drunken rants and raves. Those sentiments were already in their minds, until the alcohol or drugs makes them lose their inhibitions and it all comes out. What is scary now is all those trolls on the internet using their words to really hurt others. Time to stop them.


    1. I’m pretty sure there’s a different between “free speech” and “spewing hate.” I know it’s difficult it to draw the lines, but difficult isn’t impossible. I think everyone does know the difference, even if they won’t admit it.


      1. Actually we have been talking about it a lot here in New Zealand with the Cricket World Cup – this sort of oafish behaviour is called sledging in the game and us Kiwis were commended for not rising to the bait, while Australia was condemned for their ranting and raving both in the press and on the field. Still it does get into your mind, which is what happened in the end to the Kiwis. So they lost. It was not in the spirit of the game – it was once called the sport of gentlemen. Not now.


        1. That stuff happens here, too. I think it isn’t quite as bad in baseball as it is in hockey, with football and basketball in the middle. There appears to be a direct correlation between bad behavior and alcohol. Hm. What does that mean?

          Liked by 1 person

  5. There is a poem, a religious poem that i remembered yesterday, but couldn’t find it. Had more time today, so here it is:
    “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?
    Oh! Stay, dear child, one moment stay,
    Before a word you speak,
    That can do harm in any way
    To the poor, or to the weak;
    And never say of any one
    What you’d not have said of you,
    Ere you ask yourself the question,
    “Is the accusation true?”
    And if ’tis true, for I suppose
    You would not tell a lie;
    Before the failings you expose
    Of friend or enemy:
    Yet even then be careful, very;
    Pause and your words well weigh,
    And ask it be necessary,
    What you’re about to say.
    And should it necessary be,
    At least you deem it so,
    Yet speak not unadvisedly
    Of friend or even foe,
    Till in your secret soul you seek
    For some excuse to find;
    And ere the thoughtless word you speak,
    Ask yourself, “Is it kind?”
    When you have ask’d these questions three—
    Ask’d them in all sincerity,
    I think that you will find,
    It is not hardship to obey
    The command of our Blessed Lord,—
    No ill of any man to say;
    No, not a single word.


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