When Writers Fail To Understand How Words Work
and then go here:
Because writing a book for fun and profit is totally just like what happened at Bataan
and then here:
and finally end up here:
Your Broken Project is Not a War Crime
I’ve had a post about this — not this situation specifically, but others like it — brewing for a long time. I’ve used the word “deathmarch” before, in flippant context. After reading these essays, though, I’m going to stop doing so, for the reasons that Bill (whump) outlines in his post. It trivializes other peoples’ pain, it erases and disregards history, and most of all, trying to defend the use of such a word in such a context makes you look like a jackass.
The argument I have always seen against dropping the use of such words always boils down to “But I’m a word nerd, and I think I should be able to use any word I want. Not using that word cuts a hole in my lexicon, and demonizes it, besides. Also, I like that word.”
That’s not word-nerdery. That’s laziness. That’s favoring metaphor over precision, generality over specificity. A real word-nerd would keep searching until they came up with a more correct, more fitting descriptor. If the situation you’re involved in actually resembles a death-march? Then by all means, go ahead and use that word. If not? Head back to the well and drop the bucket. Surely you can come up with something better than that.
The other thing I don’t get is how people can say something like that, and when called on it (with politeness, gentleness and sincerity, I might add), to issue a half-assed “Sorry you found it offensive” and then keep using the term. This is not someone else being too sensitive. This is you being too insensitive, especially after someone stuck their neck out to point out your mistake — to educate you.
Case in point: When a kid with Downs hears someone use the r-word in casual conversation and says “I know that when you use that word you’re talking about me,” with hurt in his voice, what kind of person says “Hey, I’m sorry you were offended. But r–ed is just such a satisfying word to use!” Full disclosure: I actually used that defense once, on that same word. And then my friend told me how her brother — yes, that kid — felt. And then I stopped using it, because I was ashamed of myself for privileging my own word-nerdery over someone else’s feelings. I found a different word. It wasn’t hard, it was beneficial: looking for better words makes me a better writer.
If there’s one good thing that came out of the horrible A:TLA Racebending debacle, it’s that it led me to discover that I’m an absolute sucker for specificity, in both visual detail and in language. I don’t want generalities. I want specifics. I want to be a more rigorous writer, one who more closely examines my word-choices, my settings, my historical details — and if I make a mistake, and get called on it, (which I will, of course) I hope to God I can listen and learn and grow from it, rather than alienating — and further hurting — someone who took time and courage out of their day to be polite to me and educate me when I was off-base.
That education is a gift — a token of esteem towards you, the writer, for the hurting party feels you’ve got the capacity to learn, despite the fact that you just hurt them — and it comes free of charge to you, but not to them. Speaking up takes bravery, costs energy, and frequently earns an unwanted backlash.
So thank you, miir, littlebutfierce, whump, ephemere, ktempest and megwrites. I’m sorry that all of you had to write what you did, but thank you for taking the effort and time to do so.