Words Have Power

What’s in a name?

I’ve been thinking about names lately – character names, place names, book titles. Connotations are important. The right name can generate emotional responses, can elicit visceral reactions. When I was writing THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, I wanted to come up with a name for my castle, something that created an image but that wasn’t real. Rooks are a member of the corvid family, and crows have dark connotations (think Poe). And “kill” is a Scottish word for a ravine with a stream, but it also connotes, of course, murder. Hence, Rookskill, something that sounds creepy, deep, and dark.

Consider ice.

What do you think of when you think of ice? Cold. Hard. Dangerous. Treacherous when you need to go somewhere, deadly if you are not prepared to face it with the right gear.

Now consider ICE.

The acronym stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (This is not a political post…okay, maybe it is, a bit.) This agency is tasked with the law enforcement responsibility of finding and deporting illegal aliens in the U.S. and it has come under fire for the way it’s handling its duties.

When I see pictures of people wearing black shirts with the white letters ICE I have an instinctive, visceral response, and while it partly has to do with the nature of the work they do, it is also a response to their presentation.

I submit that this may be intentional, that this presentation is meant to be cold, hard, dangerous, scary. However, I also submit that those who wear ICE white lettering on black might subliminally absorb the name and presentation of the name and not to their benefit.

Words have power. They elicit emotional responses in those who use them as well as those who read them.

I’d love to hear what you think.

2 Responses to “Words Have Power”

  1. Linda W.

    I agree that words have power. I can’t help thinking of how wrong the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is. However, we have the power to change the damage words cause by affirming each other.