30 May 2007

Words That Exclude

Remember that line in Jerry Maguire? Something about not having the license to use a word. (The “kwan” or whatever the heck that was.) You see, it’s been used on me. That’s right, believe it or not, I was once not cool enough to use a particular word. And difficult to make a sarcastic emoticon after that statement.
A friend telling me (without my asking) that I couldn’t use a word that they (some particular group) were using actually hurt at the time. I knew I wasn’t really the same as everybody else and maybe didn’t have the appropriate amount of coolness or whatever it is in the world that determines who matters and who doesn’t, but that was tantamount to saying that I didn’t belong with my own friends.
“So what?” You might say. “They’re only words.” Well, words are pretty powerful things. In my case, it was used to clearly delineate where our boundaries on the friendship stood. If I couldn’t even speak my friends’ language, how do I even begin talking to them in a manner that is natural and effortless?
So I became rebellious. I hated words that belonged to groups. People were calling each other “chief.” The stigma was engraved in my mind so deeply that the mere mention of the word disgusted me. So now, my meanings don’t reside in the individual words. They belong to the whole sentence. No flash, no special effects, no lingo.
Maybe it’s all for the best. I know that there is absolutely no way I can make anyone feel excluded or included by the way I talk. It feels good to be the buffer between a person who the group doesn’t know, and the people who have developed their own language. The people who know me know through my feelings and my personality, not my culture.
And the feeling of belonging? I don’t even miss it anymore. I may or may not, I don’t even know. But at least the person who knows he doesn’t has someone who speaks his language.

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