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Monday, October 29, 2012

*Just* Another Four-Letter Word

As a very articulate almost-four-year-old, Chephren seems to have a gift for gab (no doubt that he got that from his mother, and yes, it can be a gift to be a talker, ok?)  He has also assigned himself with the distinguished role of 'word police' in our house - meaning that if he catches anyone (and I mean anyone) in earshot using any of his 'forbidden' words, namely the words 'dumb' and 'stupid', he will call you on it until you acknowledge the error of your ways.  He is freaky good at it.  You can be in the next room having what you think is a semi-private conversation and accidentally slip one of those words into your conversation and he will come charging in - making sure that you are brought to justice.  Drop in a few f-bombs however, and he won't even flinch.  Funny stuff, and hey, I said he was articulate, not a rocket scientist.

Another four-year-old characteristic is wanting to know the 'why' of these 'rules'.  In other words, I had better be able to come up with a good reason for why these words aren't allowed.  Fair enough.  I told him that these words aren't really that productive.  They aren't very descriptive.  There are better words out there to help convey your thoughts and feelings than these.  He seemed to think this was a good reason and, satisfied with my answer, we now find ourselves strictly monitored by an almost-four-year old.  I am ok with it.  I know that it won't last forever.

Living with a card-carrying member of the word police has helped me to get even more present with my speech.  If you have read any of the material on FIERCE Integrity, you will know that this is a big deal for me, in fact, it is one of the 'Big 3' sections of the full course (coming out soon, I promise).

This business of 'non-productive words' has gotten me thinking about similar words.  What other words do we use that really aren't productive?  One word that jumps forward when I ask this question is the word 'just', and I am not referring to 'just' as in 'justice'.  I am referring to the word 'just' as in 'I was just calling to' or, 'It was just the one time', or 'It will be ready in just a few weeks'.  When used in this fashion, using the word just is to casually understate the thing that it is describing, and what if that 'thing' is you?

Back in high school, there was a boy who was interested in dating me, let's call him Romeo (basically to ensure that you know I made it up and yes, I am aware that this is a really lame and self-indulgent track that I am taking and no, I don't care).  During this time, this boy would often call my house and ask to speak with me.  If I wasn't home (and I frequently wasn't), he would leave messages either with my parents or on the machine.  The messages varied from day to day, but they inevitably contained the phrase 'It's just Romeo calling'.  Hmmm...  Is it me or can you hear him already dismissing the possibility of me ever phoning him back?

I did phone him back, but we never did end up dating.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But you can never know for sure.

The point is, words are one of most powerful tools we have access to.  When we speak, we are essentially calling forth the reality that we would like to create.

How present are you with your speech?  Do you use any words thoughtlessly?  What words do you use that are perhaps 'less than' productive?  (Another word that jumps forward here is the word should).

Who gets to be the word police in your life?

MareBare xo

P.S.: Interested in reading another person's take on this 'four-letter word'?  Check out this article that talks about the harm of using the word 'just', especially in business settings.


  1. Oy! I am WAAAAY guilty of this. I equivocate at every opportunity, and I babble instead of making concise statements.

    But I've also heard that this is a male/female style issue. Women tend to try to soften their thoughts with words like "just." I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it - as I sometimes find those short, direct, concise, declarative, "male" sentences to be off-putting, sometimes even verging on arrogance.

    Wonder what that says about me!

    1. I think it is the awareness of our speech that is more important here. That, and our intention. I still 'catch' myself saying words like 'just' and 'should' - and sometimes they feel okay, but others they feel 'yicky'. If they are coming from a place of judgement or lack, I try to bring awareness to this and see if I can re-direct myself. Definitely NOT going for arrogance :) xo

    2. Ha! Can't imagine you saying ANYTHING that sounded arrogant!