Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Changing Words, Changing Attitudes

Our language shapes the way we think about things, changes the way we act. Some words bring out a positive reaction in a listener; some bring out a negative reaction. Yes, there is emotional baggage that comes with words. Which words we use when speaking and writing can predetermine the attitudes of the listeners and readers to those words.

No one likes to be considered as "cheap." Cheap has a negative connotation in our language. As the dictionary tells us, cheap is "Ungenerously or pettily reluctant to spend money." People who are cheap are also close, close-fisted, costive, hard-fisted, mean, miserly, niggard, niggardly, parsimonious, penny-pinching, penurious, petty, pinching, tight, tightfisted. No one likes being called cheap, so we don't take actions that would bring us the hated label.

But what if we were thrifty instead? The dictionary tells us that "thrifty" is "Economical, careful in the use of material resources." People who are thrifty are also canny, chary, frugal, provident, prudent, saving, sparing. Who doesn't want to be thought of as someone who is careful or prudent? Another definition of "thrifty" is "flourishing," with its synonyms of booming, boomy, prospering, prosperous, roaring, thriving. Anyone who would object to being thought of as thriving or prosperous?

When we talk about making changes that could save us money we would be better off using the word "thrifty" rather than the word "cheap." Being thrifty is something we could wear as a badge of honor; being cheap raises some negative pictures we could do without.

Yes, changing attitudes can be as simple as changing the words we use. So you see, dear readers, I'm not recommending being cheap at all; I'm recommending being prosperous by also being prudent.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! Without having to leave my house I've gone from being the wicked witch to the good witch, just by renaming myself. When my son complains that he isn't getting steak all the time because I'm too cheap, I'll just smile and tell him that I'm thrifty. That should stop him dead.

Anonymous said...

I'll agree that there is a difference between how we see cheap and how we see thrifty. But is there really any difference when we say vertically challenged or when we say short?My company is really very in to PC language but I don't see that some of the substitutes are really any different from the original words.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't finish the comment. I couldnt' reach the supplies in the office that were on the shelf near the ceiling. I called to get someone with a ladder to come to our office and explained that I was too short to reach the shelf. I was told that I should be using vertically challenged instead because it was a nicer word to use.

Anonymous said...

Following Daniels company's logic, mens clothing should be labeled height enhanced, perfectly acceptable and vertically challenged instead of 36 tall, 36 regular and 36 short. Yeah, that would go over really big with buyers.

concernedjewgirl said...

I think say it like it is, unless you will get into a lawsuit or hurt someone’s feelings.
I say it like it is. I’m cheap and I like it! I’m cheap so that I can save money for things that matter rather than big gas guzzling cars that get traded in. Or other useless items that will get thrown out with time. I’m also fat not plump. Sometimes I’m fluffy, but mainly fat. My company is so PC it makes you want to just say the opposite of PC.

Anonymous said...

Given the subject matter I thought you'd enjoy my experience. A nameless member of my family was always getting after me for being cheap. I told her that I was just being prudent. She had astonishment on her face. "You're a prude too? Isn't it enough that you are cheap?"