Say What You Mean

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

It’s Hump Day. I remember having to explain that to a young friend from the Republic of Georgia. She had never heard the expression before, and it reminded me that a lot of what we consider to be common vernacular is not so common outside our own little community. Okay, full disclosure – that’s the first time I’ve ever used “vernacular” in a sentence. I’m feeling just a little giddy right now!

What is vernacular? Just a more expensive version of the word “language.” It’s like saying “cove” instead of “dead-end street.” They both mean the same thing. Which one you use depends entirely on the price of the houses. In a trailer park the sign simply says, “No Outlet.” To me, that one always sounded like a vague reference to a lack of restrooms. Yes, that’s really the way my mind works.

We often use fancy words to describe simple things. Sometimes, it’s just good marketing. Why would you consider buying a used car when you can buy a pre-owned automobile? And let’s be honest, a house trailer just isn’t as prestigious as pre-manufactured housing. Besides, once the wheels come off, it’s just a house, right? And doesn’t “son-in-law” sound nicer than “jerk who married my daughter?”

Okay, I’m gonna get in trouble here. Not with my daughter. She’s got a few colorful words of her own to clarify that sentiment. But that’s another story. The point is, when something isn’t as pretty as we’d like it to be, all we have to do is find more appealing ways to describe it. Politicians learn this premise early in life. Instead of an allowance, they hit their parents up for tax-deferred contributions.

I was reading the news last year and came across a new term I’d never seen before – “food insecure.” I had to read that a couple of times, because when I first read it, I thought it had something to do with gas station sushi. That’s about as insecure as you can get. Or the time Mom thawed the Thanksgiving turkey outside for three days in 80-degree weather. I issued advance warning to the whole family on that one.

But, as it turns out, it’s just a less painful way of saying somebody’s refrigerator is empty and the kids won’t be getting any dinner tonight. And I have to wonder, why do we feel the need to color that with anything other than its true shade of mottled gray tinted with desperation? Is it to make us feel less guilty about not dropping a can of soup in the church food pantry?

We do the same thing to describe our own circumstances. Nobody ever says, “We’re poor.” They’re having financial difficulty. Unemployment is more palatable if you’re just between jobs. And plus-sized sounds a whole lot nicer than overweight. My granddaughter gets really upset when I say I’m old. “You’re not old!” Well, in all honesty, this isn’t as old as I once thought it was. But let’s be real.

The challenge is when you think somebody may need a little help, but you don’t want to approach it in the wrong way. It’s especially delicate when the other person hasn’t opened up to you first. You know, like when you go into the business of selling weight loss products and want to approach a prospective customer. “Wow, you really need to visit my store!” That’s not the best way to make friends.

On the other hand, if you truly believe you have something to offer, something that another person needs and that can benefit their life in some way, you really owe it to that person to say something. It may be nothing more than friendly advice, from the perspective of somebody who’s been in a similar situation themselves, or as complex as a plan for doubling their income over the next year.

When we avoid these conversations, we make a decision for people that they may not want us to make. “I know you could use some extra cash and I can show you how to make some. But you wouldn’t be interested in what I’m doing, so I’ll save us both the trouble.” You might as well look at them and say, “I know something that could make your life better, but I’m keeping it to myself.”

We all face challenges in life. It may feel better to describe those challenges in “politically-correct” terms, but if the person we’re talking to doesn’t understand the vernacular (twice in one post!), we could be completely missing the chance to give or receive help. Sugar-coating may make the words easier to say and hear. Just don’t let the meaning get lost in the message.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2021 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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