with a peace sign dangling around her neck and a bandana wrapping her hair, andrea would stress how important it was to choose our words wisely, to weigh those choices carefully, to take time, to be thoughtful. she was the.most.amazing. english teacher. her words still echo in my mind and there are so many moments that i wish i could sit with her, have coffee with her, ponder life with her. that she is on some other plane of existence for a few years now is too much, too soon, and too late for me. john glenn high school was fortunate to have her and those of us who sat in the chairs in her classroom were gifted with a spirit that generously still swirls around me and i’m sure many others. it’s where i’m from.
“watch what you say,” momma would tell me. “you can’t take it back.” yes, once those words are out there, they are out there. no one can erase them and the damage or good they do is a part of the universe-story. my sweet momma adored words. in her later years, sometimes we’d have to have a chuckle as the wrong word would surface and the right word would stay in that moat i always profess is surrounding our synapses. we would search for the right word while swimming in the wrong one, but we’d eventually get there. her words echo in my heart. it’s where i’m from.
now, i have to say that there are many among us – i’m sure myself included – who are not choosing our words wisely, who are not consistently watching what we say. and in these times, in every single arena, that matters.
this morning we read an article about the terrifying january 6 insurrection at the united states capitol: “some of you have recognized that this was such an egregious incident that you have turned in your own friends and family members,” the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s washington dc field office stated. an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.
egregious: (adj) outstandingly bad; shocking.
from dictionary.com: egregious: extraordinary in some bad way, glaring, flagrant.
according to legaldictionary.net: “in a legal context, the term egregious refers to actions or behaviors that are staggeringly bad, or obviously wrong, beyond any reasonable degree.”
now there’s a word. “egregious.” one would think that the divvying out of such a word would be with great forethought, with a deference to reality and the measure of truth, with reserve and adherence to its definition, without exuberant overuse. yet in these times it is appearing in more than just cameo roles.
the washington post had an article titled, “the egregious gaslighting around trump’s handling of the pandemic” (philip bump). an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.
hillary clinton has been quoted saying that impeachment was placed in the constitution in the event that there would be “a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.” yet another appropriate use of the word “egregious”.
i have used the word “egregious” twice in my own blogpost-writing. once was in my post “indecency keeps getting rewarded” and the other time was in my post “what moms (i) want“. both times i weighed this word, tossing it around in my brain, checking its definition, making certain it was the right word. because – that’s where i’m from. i could hear andrea and my sweet momma cautioning me, “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
because these times are really not at all ordinary, we are seeing the use of strong adjectives, heavy-hitting adverbs. we are reading and hearing people-who-are-trying-to-make-a-point wax poetic or spew rhetoric, both. we grant them an audience as we read, as we listen – ourselves. it is up to us to decide if the words that they choose are appropriate, wreaking an equal action or reaction, if they are exaggerated, wreaking panic, if they are scandalous, wreaking havoc, if they are slanderous, wreaking destruction. we are responsible persons – capable of question-asking, fact-checking, stepping back from drama and observing through eyes of truth-telling.
i guess it all depends on where we’re from.
incidentally, the archaic definition of egregious is: remarkably good.
“choose wisely.” (andrea)
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