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.