Lifted and Not Pulled: When Language Really Matters

Today my oldest gets 4 teeth pulled–um, I mean lifted.

The orthodontist doesn’t tell her they are being “pulled”; those teeth are simply being “lifted.” He’s adamant about using certain words to shape a different reality. He explains that in war-torn countries where he performs dental services, he’d  never use the word “shot” with a child. “That means guns and bullets. You say that the child will receive a poke.”

He corrects me several times before I’m able to remember that the teeth will be lifted (so gentle, like someone pushing up from below) and not pulled (so violent, like someone taking from above). He tells my husband and me that we teach children how to feel about procedures by the words we use. He’s been in this practice for so long that he knows the wording works. (I’m still a little doubtful. Those teeth are still coming out regardless of what we call it!)

If language can shape a new reality, then I need to think carefully about the words I use to define my own day. I’m artistically rendering, not cleaning. It’s like when my mom says there are no mistakes, just opportunities for embellishment.

Like good dental rhetoric, I’m going to use different words.

I might let language do a little work on me today.

Do you have a nicer expression for something unpleasant?

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  1. This is one of the things I love most about language…how it impacts both the speaker and the hearer…paradimes shift…how we feel changes…grace is seen.