“Bon Voyage – we hate to see you go…”

Thus were the words that greeted me when I opted out of a travel info site’s e-mail list. For many, this is likely a benign, even clever way to confirm someone’s cancellation.

But for me, it stood out, because it had the h-word in it: hate.

I never paid attention to that word until a couple years back, when it was pointed out to me by a colleague (also a communications guy). When I was lamenting my, er, intense dislike for certain aspects of my job, he said,  ‘Have you ever noticed how negative a word ‘hate’ is? To me, it’s one of the most offensive words you can say.’

When I was a kid, we used to think that ‘hate’ meant ‘wanting to kill.’ I haven’t found that definition in current dictionaries, but that’s probably because so many people now use the word regularly and it has evolved into regular parlance, one of the things that dictionaries endeavour to reflect.’

But up to the moment my colleague pointed it out to me, the idea of dropping that word from my language hadn’t even occurred to me. But after that, it became part of my self-editing — like the kind we do in polite company, and around our parents and kids — to try my hardest never to use the word, except in its truest sense, i.e., when I intensely dislike something to the point of needing to take action (a definition I found here).

Discouraging ‘h***’ hasn’t made it onto the Disney radar

And, my husband and I discourage our daughter from using it, too, a task a lot harder than it seems when you really start to pay attention.

Cartoon kids use the word to describe all order of things they dislike: a certain food, a chore, a subject in school…and many times, another person. In Tinkerbell — which I find otherwise quite progressive compared with older Disney flicks — Tink at one point thinks she’s useless, using the fact that ‘birds hate me’ as evidence. How could a bird experience such a strong emotion about a cute, green-clad little fairy? How did Tink come to articulate it like that so quickly (she was only born about a week before)?

It’s also hard to call other people around your kid on their use of the word, since most folks consider it as inoffensive as its opposite, love. But if it is used as a modifier in words like ‘hate-crime,’ then that says it all.

To me, dropping the H-bomb so often is like throwing out little poison arrows, or like dropping an invisible cloak around yourself that says to others, ‘I’m just a negative person, to the point that it’s infiltrated my everyday language.’

So, as much as I don’t relish using words like ‘unfriend’, I do choose these types of expressions as alternatives. Here are a few from my internal thesaurus, for anyone who feels likewise and wants to change the tone of what they put out there when they don’t like something or someone (from weakest to strongest in tone and meaning):

  • I don’t like
  • I dislike
  • I would rather not
  • I wish I didn’t have to
  • I find it unfortunate/frustrating/annoying when/that
  • I am averse to
  • _______ annoys me
  • (and from the official thesauri): I despise, I loathe, I detest, I abhor…

Does anyone else have a **** on for the H-bomb?

A quick Google of ‘hate is a bad word’ yields several others like me. If you’re one of them, drop a line with your take on the matter.

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