Violent Language

This morning, I started thinking about how many colloquialisms we have that use violent imagery to convey something positive. Challenging workout? “Those weights kicked my ass.” Maybe someone gave a performance that moved an entire room to laughter or tears: “She killed it up there!” Or when a loved one is seeking treatment for a deadly disease: “He is battling cancer. He’s a fighter.”

Our choice of metaphor — or, perhaps more tellingly, the lack of conscious choice — says something about what our society values. I was trying to come up with alternatives that were oriented more toward the mind, and they all seemed silly in comparison.

“Those weights got all science on my arms!”
“She brought enlightenment to this room.”
“He is a conscientious objector to cancer. He’s negotiating peace.”

Why does that sound ridiculous? We talk a big game about the importance of education, and we tell kids that violence is not the answer, so why are phrases about inflicting harm the ones that are considered the most impactful?

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