Becoming Responsible Communicators

Essay by spinellipellyCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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Becoming Responsible Communicators

Before we are born, we can hear the sounds of language. As infants, we hear language as meaningless sounds projected from our parents' mouths. When we realize that one simple word can make our mothers respond, we experience the power of words that can be helpful in communicating. Sometimes this power is abused. Haig A. Bosmajian, a professor of Parliamentary Procedure, Rhetoric, and Freedom of Speech at the University of Washington, uses many examples in his essay, "The Language of Oppression," to demonstrate the use of language and naming to aid in the oppression and dehumanization of others. Our names specify who we are, and we feel demoralized and resentful when we are called by unpleasant names or placed in other categories. Unfortunately, some individuals like to use the power of naming to gain an advantage over their enemies by damaging others' confidence in who they are.

Bosmajian uses an example from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass to illustrate one's attachment to his or her name. In The Looking Glass, Alice says, "I shouldn't like to lose [my name] at all - because they'd have to give me another, and it would almost be certain to be an ugly one." Alice is apparently fond of her own name, and after always being known as "Alice," a different name would change her life drastically, especially if it was one she didn't like. There is also proof in Bosmajian's essay of the oppressive language used by the Nazis in their attempt to justify the "extermination" of the Jews. The government reduced the diversity of Jewish names to only two, forcing men to take one name and women the other. In addition, they redefined human beings as "parasites" and "diseases." These language changes creates psychological and social effects, making...