Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Stressing Me Out {SOL 2-02-16}

This past week, I have found myself reflecting on language -- those wonderful, magical strings of letters that we use to communicate our feelings, ideas, and thoughts -- and how it takes on different meanings for different people.

Mostly, I was led to this reflection because of my teenage kids.

Don't tell anyone, butI think they have a skewed understanding of language, and for this English major, teacher and writer, I find this troubling.

When you and I hear the words I'm stressed, we usually think of being worried or majorly overloaded.  They are words that we use for those rare occasions when we are filled up to the top and can't take one more thing. We reserve them for the most severe of times.

But for my teenagers, these words have a much broader meaning. They get thrown around a lot.  For instance, the words I'm stressed get used to mean anything from "I'm so tired" to "I have so much homework that I have to finish" to "My favorite band hasn't posted their summer concert schedule yet" to "I have nothing to wear because I haven't done laundry in a week."

Everything stresses them out.

And quite honestly, hearing that word so much is starting to stress me out.

My daughter and I had a discussion the other day about this word stressed.  I actually asked her not to use it anymore.  We talked about when she didn't sleep well, she could say she was exhausted.  Or when she had so much homework, she could feel overwhelmed.  No concert schedule?  Use irritated.  Not sure where you left your homework?  Try flummoxed.  (That one got a laugh.)

Another greatly overused word is yell.  If an adult disagrees with a teenager, there's a good chance they will think you are yelling at them.  If you tell them to do something they don't want to do?  You're yelling.  Try to correct a bad choice or mistake?  Yep, yelling again.  Please note -- at no time do you even need to raise your voice to be yelling either.

I wonder where the shades of meaning from our language got lost on my kids (and probably even others of this generation.)  Why they can't use precise language to express their feelings, ideas and desires.  How their inability to see shades of meaning affects others and their reactions to their statements.

Maybe I need to give them a thesaurus for their next birthday....

I find their skewed sense of language stressing, which is also causing me to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, irritated and flummoxed.  

And yes, I really do mean it.


  1. This is fantastic. I used to get crazy when kids told me they were "all set with that" because I didn't really know what it meant anymore. Are they done because they did it or are they done because they aren't going to do it. Say what you mean and mean what you say! I believe Dr Seuss said that. Sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you. :)

  2. Oh, how I love this!!! I've noticed the misuse of the word "yell" with my middle school students. I agree...specific language makes life better! It certainly helps me feel less flummoxed! By the way, I'm using flummoxed today as many times as possible. I LOVE that word.

  3. yes, yes, YES I so agree! I tell my husband we need to model good behavior--but that includes language, too, because our little trio are going to pick up on his "I'm so stressed out" comments and zip the comment right back to him sooner or later. I'm going to suggest he say that work flummoxes him instead... Great slice, thanks!

  4. Hmm... I think that our language is always dynamic. Words take on new meanings with each generation making sense of them.
    Teaching keeps us living in that world of movement.
    I miss that dynamic movement.

  5. I love that you actually asked your children to make some changes, and guess that it's just easier to use the same word over & over. I know about that "yelling" word as a teacher. If I asked for change in an assignment, sometimes a student would say I yelled at them. Guess in their "ears" it was. I'm hoping you are less irritated in the future!

  6. Do you suppose the underlying cause is because this generation has taken to shortening everything? So it's just more expeditious to have one word to cover a myriad of situations. I don't have any teenagers in my life right now, so I'm way behind in their language.

  7. Yes...I lived through this with my three, and I definitely know what you mean. Stress, especially, seems to be a word that covers such a vast terrain of feeling.

  8. Yes...I lived through this with my three, and I definitely know what you mean. Stress, especially, seems to be a word that covers such a vast terrain of feeling.


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