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April 1st, 2019
Good songs can quickly gain a sour edge when a relationship dissolves that was associated with the discovery of such a good song. When once the song functioned like a kind of anthem for good times, the reminder of such good times can evoke a barrage of sadness and perhaps anger. Music in this case is perhaps the easiest and most ubiquitous example of this phenomenon, but in recent years, more and more people seem to be similarly triggered by far less than the melodies and lyrics of a bygone phase of life.
Single words can trigger people. While there are classic perennial examples of such words, mostly in the form of slurs, many individuals seem to have adopted a similar reaction to a greater variety of words.
A more approachable example of this exists in the Harry Potter books. He-who-must-not-be-named is a euphemism for Voldemort, the name which the protagonist has no problem saying, and for good reason.
We alone as a species give words their power. And because of this, we alone can take that power away. If a word exists more in the imagination than in practical use, than it’s associations remain static. It has no chance to evolve because it is not used, and because of this, powerful, rarely spoken words retain their power. We can see this occurring on the level of society and on the level of the individual.
The only way to dismantle the power of such words is to reclaim them in new contexts.
The paradox in doing so is that attempting to use such words in new contexts is bound to trigger people who are unaware of the effort. It’s uncomfortable because strangers have no quick way of deducing the intentions of each other if actions and behavior are counter-intuitively matched to intentions.
Groups of friends, however, will adopt all manner of impolite speech for inside-jokes and bonding in general. Such groups are exploring taboos in the same way children are always pushing the envelope: in order to find and know the true limits of a given situation.
When it comes to the good song soured, it’s fairly easy to simply listen to it, over and over, until it’s washed of any negative emotion. In essence, by pulling the trigger on such emotional ammunition, we exhaust our store and in so doing, we reclaim what we’ve lost.
While civility is an endless gift to us against violence, words are not physical violence, and in the case of language, we might be a healthier people if we give our verbal taboos a little light and let linguistic civility slide a little. By airing out such closeted skeletons, we can diffuse our general triggered nature.