The words I choose and tags I use


EDGAR ALLAN POE, USAIt is said that Edgar Allan Poe selected each and every word with great care and thoughtful consideration. Ever since being taught that idea sometime in junior high school, I strive to do the same in my own writing. This starts by reading a great deal, building my vocabulary, and being conscious of the words I choose whether I’m writing a resume or a speech, short story or news article, prose or poetry. Often when our words are limited in number, it inspires us to dig deep and make each one count. Unfortunately, this philosophy has not translated to Twitter where writers are limited to just 280 characters.

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Word choice matters even when deliberation has not been given. I find that rapid-fire writing in my journal can be very revealing when I go back and analyze my choice of words. Sometimes I catch myself using the word “want” when what I really mean is “need.” To me, this signals a hesitancy to assert my needs – even to myself. I’ve also noticed in journaling that I’ll ask a question, but end the sentence with a period. That tells me when it’s a question to which I already know the answer, even if I’m not ready to face that answer.

My subconscious cues may be different than yours, but I have no doubt they are there in whatever writing you do. All you have to do is look back through an emotional text-message conversation or heated email exchange. (btw, I strongly suggest you never have a heated discussion via text message or email as it’s too easy for miscommunication to occur.) I’m sure you’ll see messages you sent that were fueled on emotion and sent off without much thought. In those messages, your word choice might show something not yet clear to yourself. Did you end any questions with periods? Maybe you ended a statement with a question mark. Were you able to say what you really mean? Are you really “looking forward” to doing that thing later? Or are you more ambivalent? The words you choose to use may show you something about yourself that has been hidden from your conscious mind.

This whole post started with me analyzing the tags I use on my blog. I noticed the word “assault” – it was big in my word cloud, indicating that I used it frequently. Upon further inspection, I noticed that when I used the word “assault” what I really meant was “rape.”  I did this with each and every occurrence of the word.

My first experience with rape and aversion to the word came in 2010 or 2011 when a close friend of mine was raped in her home. She explained to me that she had taken her medication for the night and was texting with this guy who had taken her out on a date the week prior. He was insistent about coming over to her place and being “too tired” to argue she agreed to let him. She didn’t want him in her apartment. She didn’t want him in her bed. And when he initiated sex without her consent, she was “too tired” to protest. As I listened to her story, I felt anger rising within me.

“You know there’s a word for what he did,” I said not saying that word aloud. I didn’t need to say it because she knew exactly what word it was I had in mind.

“Yeah, but it’s not like I was screaming and fighting to get him off of me,” she replied. “It wasn’t that. It’s just a lesson learned.”

I wasn’t going to argue with my friend as I believe that we all have a right to define our own experiences. If she didn’t want to call that experience “rape” then I wasn’t going to force that label on her. But for my own narrative, I can’t call it anything other than rape. Her thinking was impaired because of the sleep medication and she didn’t want sex. I don’t know if she’s suffered any trauma as a result of that incident because we never spoke about it again. We’ve since grown apart and sometimes I wonder if that is the reason why. It makes sense to me – in order to put some emotional distance between herself and the “incident” she needs to distance herself from the person(s) she told about it. I don’t fault or begrudge her that one bit.

As for myself, I was first raped in July of 2012 by an acquaintance I met through a local community theatre group. I didn’t write about rape until January 2013 in a series about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In that series, I still did not talk about rape directly. Finally, towards the end of September that year, I went public and named my rapist.

Today, I looked at the tags on that post “What a day” and I thought to myself that the person who perpetrated that crime matters very little to me today. He will never pay for what he did to me and undoubtedly other young women – he was a licensed school teacher, after all. But I now have bigger battles to fight and Joel Blaha no longer holds any power over me. So I decided it’s time to let the tags go.

The tags are one way search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! find my website and it’s contents. If you did a search for his name today on any of those search engines, you would find links to my website accusing him of rape on the first page or two of results. This was intentional. I wanted anyone who searched his name to know what he did to me. Knowing I would never have justice through the court of law, I could seek justice via the court of public opinion. And so I did.

But upon some introspection this morning, it seems to me the “statute of limitations” in my court have been met. This is not to say that I retract my accusation. Nor do I regret accusing him so publicly. However, I do believe that there comes a time to let things go. And frankly, I’m sick of seeing his name in my list of tags. Since I’ve removed the tags, over time these search engines will “forget” those links and other things such as his many social media profiles will stand alone in filling up those search result pages.

And as I said, I now have bigger battles to fight.

I also removed the tag “assault” from every post on my blog and tagged it with “rape” – because it’s important that I say what I mean.



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