Weaponizing Language; Using the "D" word

We learn very early in life how to weaponize language. School yard taunts, the verbal abuse we hurl at our siblings and our peers, the calculated assaults by our bullies begin to show us how language can be a weapon.

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. “

–English language childhood rhyme

How very wrong we are.

Missteps and misuse of language can have serious consequences and unforeseen repercussions.

Current culture shows us how language can be politicized and weaponized. Here are a couple of links to sites that discuss it;

Weaponizing language historically

Weaponizing Language today

These observations are really just echoes of the way in which we deal with language everyday in our personal and work lives.

The way in which we use language, especially our choice of words, the context, the manner and tone of delivery are all elements of what determines how we get our point across. How we use language can be a powerful way to punish. Every bully knows the right words to use.

The use of a seemingly innocuous word in the right context can be devastating. We are all aware of and unfortunately even a bit comfortable with the use of the b words, the f bomb and derivatives, the n word and, in a pinch, the p and s words.

On the rise now is the use of the “D” word, or the “A” word which can wreak havoc socially, professionally and negatively affect family relationships.

Huh? What “D” word can have the same impact as racial slurs, sexuality accusatory barbs, or gender-based epithets?

“D” words

  • dickhead
  • dolt
  • dullard
  • dimwit
  • dork
  • dufus
  • douche
  • dunce

Sure these are cutesy and slightly archaic adjectives but in essence they are questioning the mental competence of the person being labelled. The newer one, the most devastating, life altering word and label for someone regardless of race or gender is “Dementia” .

The nature of bullying changes with age

We have weaponized the language associated with mental illness and mental deterioration. “Senile ” and “senility” have fallen out of favor as popular jargon. Is how we use this jargon just another form of bullying, one aimed at those in society who are getting older?

To describe someone as ‘demented‘ or having dementia changes all the perceptions of that person’s competencies.

That word got used in context with me even before the Covid Pandemic put us into lockdown, and it completely shut me down for a time. Ohmigawd, to even suggest that I was standing at that precipice was, and is, terrifying.

I used to brag about self awareness having been my salvation when confronted with cancer, and then it was self awareness that helped me recognize that I was having a hemorrhagic stroke. Are you as self-aware as you say you are or simply delusional?

Ya, well…I have screwed up a number of things lately, one or two of which scared me into thinking that there is something more sinister going wrong. What I’d been experiencing seemed to be echoes of the hemorrhagic stroke I muscled through a few years ago. After working through the disappointment of the use of weaponized language insults to describe what I had done, I sought out my GP who agreed that something needed to be done, which got me a referral to a psychiatrist.

The disappointment of psychiatric assessment

That referral startled me.

I had expected a psychologist who would listen for a minute-and-a-half and then deliver the expected you’re a bad boy finger wag followed by suggesting sort of formulaic approach to behavioral modifications.

That’s not what happened.

What happened was a psychiatric assessment that included the MOCA test (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) and what I viewed at the time as an inconclusive question and answer sequence. I left the appointment rather disappointed, or should I say dissatisfied, with the results. When I popped into my GP’s office to discuss the results of the assessment three things came out in the psychiatrist’s evaluation;

  • a request for a brain MRI
  • a comment about some narcissistic traits that I apparently exhibit
  • a comment pointing out concern for early onset  dementia in spite of a perfect score on the MOCA test.

I was somewhat pleased about the MRI request. I like the idea of the science behind it. In spite of everything that I’ve been through there has not been an MRI of my brain/skull. Yes, there have been CTs, but not the more definitive MRI.

When I drew attention to the comment re; narcissism, my GP just laughed. He pointed out that he’d known me for over 15 years and didn’t see my quirks as narcissistic. He acknowledged that I do like to chat, and that my relating of symptoms to him and even his student residents are carefully structured. I like to be prepared. Drafting up a list of challenges and social inadequacies, behavioral and cognitive changes just to get some attention is a bit of a stretch. 🤔

I have to admit that the comments in the assessment about further exploring the possibility of dementia did throw me. There was no mention of what kind of dementia, whether the psychiatrist was concerned about vascular dementia or one of the other five or ten types. Getting an MRI as soon as possible is of great importance to me. The psychiatrist wants to rule out the organic before we start down a path of counselling that may or may not be the right approach.

When I brought all of this to the attention of my wife, admittedly fairly late in the game, she did the basic research and focused in on the MRI, pointing out that I do NOT have the catalogue of dementia symptoms that can be found published in so many places. She, too, wants that MRI to lay to rest the thought of organic causes. I suspect that she also wants to use the results as a lever to get me into a cognitive behavioral therapy program.

My darling wife and life partner made her own diagnosis; drinking too much alcohol in the wake of forced and enforced retirement.

When your partner starts siding with your doctor about needing “counselling”, there’s something going on and you need to pay attention.

Just informationally, I was denied an MRI by multiple medical imaging practitioners. Apparently there is a least one ‘coil’ that was left in my brain when the hemorrhagic stroke was dealt with. That coil is considered dangerous enough to prevent a MRI being performed because of the potential for serious injury to my brain.

Let’s avoid the use of weaponizing language when referring to Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the perception of cognitive decline.

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