In the U.S. after years of speaking and writing mostly in French and Italian, I’ve returned to a country with not only a devalued dollar, but also a devalued English language. At a dinner theatre I was introduced to the playwright’s wife. When he announced that I’d just returned from the Swiss Alps, his wife tilted her head and said with a Scarlet O’hara Southern accent and upturned lips, “Oh I hate you.” I laughed uncomfortably, but still steeped in European culture, I was unable to respond. The word hate contains such a strong punch that I stood there stunned, my mouth gapping. Needless to say our relationship never progressed.
When I mentioned it later, my husband said, “It’s no big deal. It’s just a form of speech.” But I don’t agree. Every word counts. Every word sets the tone and reveals deeper currents of thoughts and the inner workings of character. On a hiking trip an acquaintance offered me some, “erotic fruit.” He stammered and flushed, “I meant exotic fruit,” he said. Wonder where his mind was dwelling?
Back in Charlotte, on my first trip through airport security, I was unfamiliar with the procedures. A tall, broad woman with a blue uniform and permed hair looked down at my feet. “Would you mind takin’ off your shoes, honey?” She said it in such a sweet, kind way that her tone even succeeded in removing the anxiety I felt about flying. I felt stunned by this approach too and wanted to hug her. In Zurich, Paris, Mumbai and most other airports, the security agents’ sharp barks serve to add to the stress and strain and put otherwise decent people on edge. This time I walked on in a comforted cloud to a white rocking chair to wait peacefully for my flight. I love the South for this sense of courtesy and kindness. Sweet words have the power to smooth over the challenges of everyday life.
Would you consider observing your thoughts, speech and written words today? Do they improve or pollute the environment?
Copyright: Debra Moffitt 2008