NAMES HURT


“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. Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? I think both. Words have power.


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? Yes, they can.

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. Retired! Yay!

12 thoughts on “NAMES HURT”

    1. (Marilyn on Garry’s computer) — Sometimes, I worry I might inadvertently turn orange. An appalling idea. And here we are, wondering what horrors were perpretrated overnight. Well, it’s the weekend. Maybe he was too busy playing golf.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. (Marilyn on Garry’s computer) — The problem is always that for kids, the pen ISN’T mightier. It works better for adults, but these days, not even very well for them. Scary world, folks. Scary world. Note: we are still on vacation. I didn’t even bring my “real” computer, so I’m just grabbing Garry’s before he comes down and takes over!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Don’t let him catch you Marilyn…chuckle. I still think the pen is the better way to fight a war. Better a war of words than a war where all the youth are slaughtered.

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  1. Political correctness has its place certainly. When it’s used to fight such things as bigotry, hate crimes, racial profiling and slurs and other vile actions that stupid people take. But when p.c. makes the whole nation stupider by its presence, then I, for one, have to say enough is enough. I agree that name calling and highlighting differences is well..bad (sorry it’s early and my brain isn’t exactly in gear. No caffeine in the house. My bad). But being so cautious about what one might say because it might offend SOMEONE is lunacy IMHO. No original thought that way. No freedom of expression, and women have spent centuries trying to be heard, so why are we being told to ‘shut up and keep your place’ once again? Political correctness has its place true. IN MODERATION. We’re so wrapped in cotton wool these days in America that it’s impeded our ability to breath and that sort of thing causes brain damage. Evident enough to me by the horror we ‘elected’ as king. And by society as a whole (in America anyway). And I’m stepping off my soapbox. Sorry that I mounted it on your blog. :*<

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    1. I have always agreed with you. We need to put a stop to PUBLIC hate speech. That doesn’t mean that we need to make our language so bland that no one could possibly ever take offense. Besides, sometimes, I really WANT to offend someone. I could think of a whole LIST of people I would like to offend right this minute 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, words, whether said or written hurt. Big time. When they come from adults, it’s worse. Because we should know better. All of us (I think) have been hurt at some point with a word that planted itself like a knife inside us. Often, when were are young there are words against the way we look. As if we could do anything about it.
    And of course public hate speech is totally wrong. We are going through tough times, meeting both the best and the worst in people. I try to focus on the good. But hate speech cannot leave us silent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the hate speech is the worst part of our current so-called “government.” People talk about “being politically correct” when talking as if it is inherently bad. It’s annoying when carried to extremes, but absolutely necessary when dealing with other people who have feelings. The kind of cruelty I keep seeing in the government and news is appalling.

      You speak of “the little knives” from adults. I remember being a kid and asking my mother how one managed to find a husband and she said — and she wasn’t intending to be mean, just casual and probably humorous in a grown-up way — she said “Oh, there’s someone for everyone. EVEN you.”

      Even me. It took me until I was in my sixties to realize I wasn’t just plain ugly.

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    2. Evelyne, I think we need to verbally confront these bullies — in firm fashion so they don’t think it’s okay. I often use sarcastic humor to cut them down. Trouble is — they’re often too stupid to understand the putdown. Then, you need to be more direct and put them on the defensive. They’re usually insecure about something.

      Liked by 1 person

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