A Canadian-based talk show was airing an American interview the other day.
The interviewer was talking to the Mom of the 9-year-old girl who was shot to death during that killing spree in Arizona on the weekend. The Mom was very emotional but able to keep herself fairly composed as she talked about young Christina, her interest in politics and how smart she was. Christina was born on 9/11 and her Mom says that she seemed to feel a sense of responsibility to give to others because of the tragic events of that day. Despite being completely heartbroken, the Mom felt compelled to share what she called the “gift” of nine years with her daughter.
But the interviewer – a woman, if you care – used a very poor choice of words more than once. She asked the grieving Mom how the shooting incident “played out.” Her exact words about the shooting were, ‘Then how did it play out?”
I was stunned by her insensitivity. We have a lot of words at our disposal in this language. I would think that when you’re talking about the murder of a little girl, you could find another way to say “unfolded” or “happened” without using the word “play” in any way. It made me wince. Twice.
It reminded me of another phrase I loathe: kiddie porn. Kiddie is typically used to make something for kids sound like fun: kiddie rides, kiddie menu, kiddie cones, etc. It just sounds wrong when it’s used to describe heinous acts committed against children.
Niggardly means stingy or cheap but I doubt you’ll ever hear anyone in broadcasting use it. Why not? It’s a legitimate word with no racist connotations whatsoever. Well, we all know why not. It’s just the way it sounds. No one wants to have to defend it or have in misinterpreted so it gathers dust in the dictionary. It’s a matter of using a little intelligence when we choose our words. Oh, and a thesaurus helps.