June 19, 2008

#01-124: How to Avoid Name-Calling

a man in antique clothing stands next to a coffin, which is surrounded by people in mourning. The man is pulling the beard of the corpse in the opened casket
One nobleman insults the corpse of another

Note: Today, even "politicians" call people names--one of the first things we were taught not to do in Kindergarten!

Get Ready: Have you ever had your feelings seriously hurt by name-calling? Have you ever called someone else a name--and regretted it?

Back in 1986, a man named Robert Fulghum wrote a charming book of essays called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. In the title essay, he says that the rules he was taught as a child--share with others, take turns, play fair, be kind to one another, clean up after yourself--are the same rules that would make life better for adults.

Shenzhen, where I lived when I wrote this, is full of Kindergarten teachers. I met one, "Mr. Stephen," one night. He was full of energy, so much so that his face was shining.

And I remembered my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Risterm. I had her in her last year before retirement, and she was still, in her 60s, shining and full of enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, many children couldn't say her name well, so they sometimes called her "Mrs. Restroom."

And that led to the lesson that remains strongest in my mind. "Children," she would say, "Remember that it's not nice to call other people names."

This was news to us. Name-calling was a grand playground tradition. We even had little sayings that we used whenever someone called us a name.

Dougie: You're stupid!
Susie: "I'm rubber, you're glue. Anything you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!"

(In traditional playground expressions, rhyming was always good.)


Derek: You're a doody-head. (We didn't know what it meant, but we hated it.)
Melissa: "Don't call me your family names!"

And so on.

But the highest truth of the playground, which we never argued with, was this one:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
"But names will never hurt me."

We knew it was supposed to be true. But it was hard to realize it. I mean, names did hurt.

Mrs. Restroom--uh, Risterm--was right. We shouldn't call people names, because it's counter-productive.

Imagine a meeting in a Fortune 500 company. The manager has asked for some ideas, and two colleagues answer:

Bob: I think we need to spice up our advertising campaign.
Mike: Bob, you're incompetent, and your idea is ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with our current campaign.

How long will Mike last in this organization? True, he didn't call Bob a "doody-head," but he could have been nicer. "That's an interesting idea, Bob, but I don't see anything wrong with the current campaign. Could you explain further?"

This is how adults make progress.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insult

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bounces
  2. charming
  3. counter-productive
  4. current
  5. enthusiasm
  6. essay
  7. Fortune 500 company
  8. grand
  9. incompetent
  10. rhyming

  1. one of the largest U.S. corporations, according to a business magazine
  2. present; right now
  3. hits and springs back
  4. noble; wonderful
  5. having the same ending sound, like "true" and "yahoo"
  6. sweet; cute
  7. piece of writing that explores an idea
  8. working against progress; moving backwards
  9. unable to do anything well
  10. excitement; eagerness

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 19, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. f; 3. h; 4. b; 5. j; 6. g; 7. a; 8. d; 9. i; 10. e