Why You Should Mind Your Words!

by Chukwuneta Oby
My latest ‘suspension’ is coming from my good friend… Ben. He claims that I referred to his person as a ‘’short man’’. I have sent several ‘sms of apology’ …all to no avail. He claims that we address people’s physical disadvantages insultingly-in this clime.

For example, he questioned why anybody would call another ‘a short man/woman’-when you can actually refer to such a person as being ‘vertically challenged’.

He also sought to know why anybody should be referred to as ‘deaf and dumb’…instead of ‘deaf and mute’. He claims that ‘dumb’ is a very insulting word to be used on anybody.

He also said that those we call ‘mad people’ should be referred to as ‘mentally challenged’.

Well, the word I stopped using on the mentally challenged (a long time ago) is ‘mad’…it is a very awkward choice of word for me to use on one -who (probably) has no hand in his/her circumstances in life. It’s easy (though) for me to (jokingly) tell a friend –‘you are mad’.

Well, the ‘vertically challenged’ phrase is threatening to become the newest addition to my vocabulary…once my current suspension is lifted.

By the way, I would not know if this is a misconception of sorts but how true is the claim that ‘short’ (errr vertically challenged) people are prone to be unusually sensitive i.e. it is easy to rub off on them wrongly, because they feel that others are always out to pick on them because of their ‘physical disadvantage’? Some people even claim they are emotionally combative.

There was this gist (from a friend) …it’s about her relative that walked into a ‘scene’ between her uncle and the wife(who is vertically challenged) and rather than answer a question that was thrown at him(as regards the cause of their quarrel)- her uncle took the relative to the side with the following admonition ‘’If you don’t have the patience of a dog, please do not have anything to do with a short (errr vertically challenged) person…most actions of yours will be read as ‘lording it over them’, even the most ‘innocent’ of your words/gestures are immediately read meanings into’’.

Isn’t that claim rather generalised? Should such conclusions not be arrived at -on ‘individual’ basis? I remember hearing (a long time ago) another weird claim… that ‘very tall’ people are often not smart.

So, does one’s attitude have a co-relation with one’s height? That is, are certain attitudes (in a person) informed by his/her height?

Perhaps a psychological angle to this (especially in the case of vertically challenged folks) should be considered. I mean, someone who was bullied or picked on so much (in his/her younger days) may metamorphose into an impulsively combative adult. And we are not be ‘very nice’ to a ‘physically disadvantaged’ in this environment.

It worries me that my good friend (Ben) recoils at my ‘words’ a lot-so much so that I am often saddled with explaining, re-phrasing(my words) and pleading for understanding-over my choice of words. To me, he seems unusually sensitive but then…I won’t use this particular scenario to judge every other fellow that’s vertically challenged.

I learned that a lot of men love the ladies that fall into this category…they are the ones that the men love to refer (especially if their frames are tiny) to as ‘cuddly cuties’. I also understand that the feeling of most men towards such (lucky?) ladies is that of ‘protection’.

Do I agree with my good friend, Ben?