Tag Archives: Words

Double Edged Laughter

Interesting headline, don’t you think? So what was the first thought that came into your head when you read it? Come on, be honest. How about the second thought?

The real story behind this sports headline from several years ago was that Alex Rodriquez (A-Rod) hit a homer, (goes deep) and the Yankees pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, (Wang) was injured running the bases in the same game. Did the newspaper intentionally print a suggestive double entendre headline? I’m sure they did. Did they accurately report the facts? Absolutely.

But here’s the thing. There were people who read that headline, like me, and laughed at the creativity and fun you can have with language, while others rolled their eyes, found it distasteful and hid it from the kids. I sometimes wonder what leads us to our individual reactions.

Personally, I can trace mine back to my mother. She wasn’t exactly June Cleaver. (Sorry, some of you may not remember this all American mother from the 50’s). She was different, someone who wasn’t afraid to say what she was thinking, even if those thoughts made some people blush. My mother didn’t really swear. She’d occasionally use the word hell or ass in a funny way but not in general language and nothing beyond that. Instead, she preferred using the double meaning of words in a humorous way. Sort of like the headline above.
She was funny. She loved to laugh and she loved seeing others laugh, which is why there were always people around her at a party. She loved hearing a good joke as much as telling one and if it was a bit racy, that was fine with her. She taught me about the power of humor early on, how it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself, how it can bring people together, the broad scope of it and how to play with the language in a fun and sometimes irreverent way. She had few boundaries and didn’t worry about who might be in the room. If someone was offended, she’d laugh and say they had “delicate ears.”

I was young when we started sharing jokes. If I heard a good one, I couldn’t wait to come home and tell her. I would watch as she made people laugh by twisting words into different meanings. My mother was Italian but father’s side of the family was very English and more conservative.  I can still see my very conservative Aunt Lydia blush at a story my mother was telling and laugh so hard her face turned red and her eyes watered. I can see my Aunt Sadie, whose lips never came near a curse word in her life, laugh so hard she couldn’t catch her breath, which in turn made me laugh just as hard. It was suggestive,  harmless fun.

Would all these relatives and friends be better people/christians/parents/spouses/aunts/uncles/cousins,  if they turned away from her suggestive humor and questioned her parenting abilities? Would my brother and I be better human beings if we never heard those jokes? Would we have been kicked out of Catholic school, the church and  not allowed to be altar boys for as long as we were if , God forbid, the priest and nuns knew of this “sinful” humor? Seems to me we grew up pretty well, married great ladies and raised terrific children. I don’t think anyone was scarred by her brand of humor and the jokes we heard or she told us.

As far as I know, laughter that wasn’t mean or hurtful never scarred anyone.

I just know that when I think of her, I smile. When I remember the irreverence of her stories and language, I laugh. Humor had few boundaries for her. She was a good person who enjoyed laughter and loved  sharing that laughter with others.

I would say that’s a life pretty well lived.

 

 

 

 

 

Words

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.”
-Unknown

Several years ago I ran into a young man at a wedding that I used to work with, but hadn’t seen in a few years. I asked how and what he was doing and he explained, among other things, that he had moved out to the opposite coast and was now living in Oregon.
I was surprised for a number of reasons and when I asked him why the move, he told me it was because of something I said to him once, several years earlier, and he decided to take my advice.

At first I thought he had mistaken me for someone else because, A) no one really listens to me, and B) even if they did, they wouldn’t listen to me.

Curious, I asked what kind of advice I could have possibly given that would cause him to move three thousand miles away. He said I once told him that if he woke up one morning, put his feet on the ground and was not happy with where he was, he should have the courage to do whatever was necessary to make a change in his life.
He told that story to his wife about a year after they got married and soon after, they left their jobs and started a new life on a different coast.

Words.

They have such power over us. More than we care to admit to sometimes.

They can change a life, save a life or destroy a life. They are free, priceless and sometimes carry burdens that last a lifetime.

They leave scars.

They soften and harden hearts.

For all that we know about words and the kind of impact they have on each of us, we sometimes remain careless with them.

Especially with children.

Words can affect adults in many of the same ways they do children. They can make us feel incredibly special or drop us to our knees. The difference, I think, is that adults can sometimes rationalize or explain away the negative comments. They can bounce back by understanding the source or respond by standing up to those words. Children, especially younger children, don’t have those same abilities. Too often they believe what they hear and may internalize those feelings for years. Sometimes it begins to shape their lives.

Being a parent can be challenging at times. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t try to do the right thing when it comes to their children. Or at least believes they are.

You know, volume is a funny thing. There have been times when I’ve heard a band play a song live and the music is so loud, I couldn’t hear the words. Children are no different. Sometimes, when the volume is too high, they just hear the noise, which can be as damaging as the words they can’t hear.

Sometimes we think we’re disciplining our children when we’re only inflicting our control over them. There’s a big difference between the two, just as there is between encouragement and constant critiques. Parents sometimes attempt to live their own lives through their children, instead of allowing them to grow, make mistakes and find their own way through life.

All these actions involve words.

With children, words have a greater impact and last much longer. The control or influence we think we have as parents, only lasts a few years. Rebellion, much longer.
They will remember. And when they’re old enough, they will understand and make their own decisions and choices.

Then the impact of words may be reversed. Strange how that works.

You know, the funny thing is, I didn’t remember having that conversation with that young man I spoke with. Even after he told me about it and I tried to go back in my memory and remember when I may have said it, I couldn’t.

But he did. And that’s the point.

That’s the blessing and the curse about words.

You may not remember what was said today, especially when it comes to children.

But they will.

And one day, you may have to eat what you planted.