In last week’s staff meeting, we discussed the “S.W.A.G.” (rubberized bracelets and car magnets) we planned to distribute at church on Sunday. Several staff members weren’t familiar with the term “S.W.A.G.” – an acronym for “something we all get” – referring to the advertising stuff, given away at conferences, grand openings, sporting events, etc.
This led to a conversation about “chachkies” (a yiddish term, also spelled “tchotchke” or “tchatchke”) – those cheap souvenir/trinkets you pick up on trips, or the stuff your grandkids give you for Christmas. We concluded the main difference between S.W.A.G. and chachkies is that chachkies are more like to need dusting.
The person, in our office, most likely to say “chachkies,” also talks about getting “gnoshies” for church events. Gnoshies are otherwise known as snacks, finger foods, treats, or hors devours. The main difference between a gnoshie vs. S.W.A.G. or chachkies is that you can “gnosh” a gnoshie, but you can’t typically gnosh S.W.A.G. or chachkies.
Besides our devotional, and reviewing prayer concerns, the calendar, and miscellaneous church business, this was last week’s staff meeting: gnoshies, chachkies, and S.W.A.G.
Words. This is just a silly illustration about words. Words and their meaning vary widely depending upon your age, generation, residence, gender, profession, culture, language, nationality, education, etc. Some words do little more than convey information. Other words convey much deeper meaning.
Some words honor. Some words do not.
I was in another conversation, this weekend, about the meaning of the “q” in the lgbtq acronym. Though I’m no expert, I tried to explain that some people use “q” to mean “queer” – which I understand to be an umbrella term for individuals who don’t fit neatly into a particular category of gender or sexual orientation – and others use the “q” to mean “questioning.” To which, the other person responded, “I thought they were all queer!” – obviously not grasping the nuances of individual sexual identity.
In recent years, I hear some use the term “politically correct” pejoratively, as an attack on liberalism. I first learned about “politically correct” language during my seminary education, at Duke Divinity School, in the early 1990s. My understanding of “politically correct” language is the effort to be precise, accurate, and sensitive to the descriptors, labels, and language choices of others. Put simply, to the best of my ability, I try to be “politically correct” by using language that is correct, respectful, and as inoffensive as possible. To me, that just seems like common courtesy – not some crazy liberal agenda.
The offense of political correctness, to some, seems to be a feeling of undue burden supposedly caused by the effort required to be more thoughtful about what one says. But, isn’t that just the “Golden Rule?” You may not care much about the words someone else uses, but you likely care deeply about something you expect others to honor and respect.
I generally get the feeling that those who are offended by “political correctness,” just don’t want to be bothered.
Obviously, we all say words we don’t intend or know to be offensive. The same words have different meanings to different people. Sometimes we aren’t even aware the words we use are hurtful, insulting or wrong. We may not understand why a particular word has become offensive. But, when we know, why wouldn’t we make the effort to change our language?
What if we took seriously the biblical notion that the words we speak have the power to bless or curse, and made a greater effort to speak more blessings than curses? Maybe knowing my words have the power to create or tear down would impact what I say and how I say it.
Maybe all we need some S.W.A.G. to remind us to be more thoughtful regarding the words we say. (BTW – the S.W.A.G. we gave away, last Sunday, says #welovefirst – that’s not a bad reminder, huh?)