I’D be shocked if someone directed me to the fat person in the team – yet I’d be less shocked by someone directing me to the larger person in the team. Why does language matter so much? Why are certain words loaded with so many different connotations?

Is it simply marketing for someone else’s gain; be it financial, political or ... nope, only those two. There is very often someone that benefits from us all attaching further meaning to words like “fat” or “asylum seeker” or “benefits”. But why are we so susceptible to being sold these additional meanings?

A word is a word. Be it verb, noun or adjective, it is just a word. I can describe a fat person as fat without it meaning that I think less of them, or that I think they are lazy, yet most people read it that way anyway. So should I stop using my descriptive word because you attach further meaning to it? Even though I clearly just used

the correct adjective for the

correct person. Is there a list somewhere of words that have reached general consensus that can no longer be used for their literal meaning?

I’m not on board with the simple banning of words, there is something too appealing about that which is banned. Isn’t that why swear words are so alluring when you’re a child? Is banned not top of the list when it comes to deciding what is cool and what is not? Surely creating spaces to explore language and the meaning attached to certain words is what we should be focussed on, not shutting down the exploration of how they feel in our mouth and the reaction that they produce from others.

We’re constantly told that we are all individual, our feelings and reactions to things are all part of that individuality, but when it comes to language there are words that we are all expected to exclude due to them having meaning

that is entirely different to their literal meaning.

I have no idea what the right or wrong way to approach this is. When my children come home from school raising their pinkies and giggling about how they’re swearing in Chinese, I simply smile. When they latterly raise their middle finger to me with the same, yet slightly more apprehensive giggle, I definitely question my smile at the former and hope that they choose the place they feel safest to explore this newfound power. Because ultimately that is what it is. Power in the knowledge that you have attached a meaning to that word, or in this case a finger, that the other person may understand but actually if they don’t it doesn’t matter, because you understand, you know what you mean and it feels good to express it.

And expression is a must. We must be sure not to bottle things up, we must be sure that we are being authentic, we must be sure to find the portal that allows us to express our true self; but only within the parameters that society deems acceptable.

The language and platform that you choose not only determines how seriously you are taken by society as a whole but in some cases whether or not you are criminalised for it. Fine art is fine art, poetry is art, rap is controversial, graffiti is illegal ... unless it can be monetised. So who decides? Who puts certain words and actions on the acceptable or unacceptable list? Are the words out of our mouths and printed or scribbled on to paper not supposed to be interpreted by their meaning within the context by which they are written or spoken? There are so many questions and so many contradictory answers.

But surely it is better that these conversations happen in the open and our words aren’t pushed underground where they can be abused, misused and left festering on and within people who can’t know their true meaning. If no one will speak these words aloud, nor define or contextualise them, we have no way of interpreting them at all.

Next time you hear a word that makes your skin shift ask yourself if you can say for definite that the person using it is doing so in the way that you have chosen to understand it. Is it your meaning or theirs?