Words Can be Harmful

While freedom of expression should always be sacrosanct, it is important to recognize some words are harmful.

But the reason words can be harmful is not their meaning, but their lack of meaning. Words are a communication tool, a symbolic system to represent complex ideas in a concise and clear way, words that for whatever reason do not have a minimally clear and well defined meaning become harmful as everyone (the speaker and the listener or anyone else for that matter) can attach whatever semantics they find convenient at any given time.

Often even the same individual can attach clearly inconsistent and contradictory meanings to the same word!

So this class of words, instead of aiding communication and clear thinking have become huge obstacles to it by muddling the minds and the discourse of people.

The reason this words should be avoided is not because their meaning could be dangerous, but because for all practical purposes they have become devoid of any real meaning and undermine the use of language to aid communication, debate and thought.

Here are some examples of harmful words that are worse than useless:

In many cases this words did originally have a clear and useful meaning, but over the years so many people have attached so many different and completely incompatible meanings as to make the addition of any of them to a sentence often make the sentence impossible to decipher with certainty (and often allowing the reader to interpret it in any way they find convenient, destroying any chance for communication.)

All this concerns only apply to the use of this words in rational arguments, their use as part of art is of course perfectly acceptable as ambiguity and confusion are very important aspects of many artistic creations.

Also with care one could use them for example in historical descriptions, but with clearly defined context that avoid ambiguity (eg., use of ‘socialism’ in a discussion of the life and work of Karl Marx would be fine, its use when discussing how Marx’s ideas could be applied to our current world is pushing the word into dangerous territory, and the same is true for Object-Oriented and Alan Kay.)

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