A few weeks ago I wrote on another of my blogs about how the words we use have power, it was titled ‘Sticks and Stones’. Today something happened that made me realise that the post lacked the power it should have, so I am writing about it again this time with the title ‘Trees and rocks’; they are bigger than sticks and stones.
Using trees in the title is appropriate; how someone referred to them made me apoplectic. I was involved in a consultation exercise with an energy company (yes, I know I live an exciting life) and the targets for all sorts of things were being discussed by the group (online) from customer service to cyber resilience. It was all going well until we came to network performance (power cuts). Some power cuts are caused by trees falling on power lines during storms. To keep on top of this the company monitored tree infestations, What! Infestations, they are not fleas or cockroaches, they are trees, beautiful things. People write poems about trees.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Yes, I know there is a poem about a flea; however, that is an erotic metaphysical poem by John Donne. It is not in praise of the flea; it is just used as a device.
Until that word was used I felt well disposed to the organisation, after the infestation utterance they ranked below Beelzebub and were definitely off my Christmas card list. Your choice of language can affect how your organisation is perceived. It can also affect how you behave, the solution to tree infestation was clearance with other solutions not being considered. Compare that with the problem that electricity lines pose when they cross a playground (electrocution risk to children). Here undergrounding or insulation are the preferred solutions. Apparently clearing the little pests off the playground is not an option.
Off course children are more important than trees; they are little treasures. If trees are thought about as treasures, rather than infestations, how they are dealt with may be more sympathetic; re-routing, undergrounding or raising the cables up above the trees would then become options.
I took a few calming breaths (this may be a luxury when all the trees are gone) and carried on listening to the plans to decarbonise their operations. All sounded lovely until it came to electric vehicles. It would not be possible to replace the whole fleet with electric vehicles because sometimes they were required to go off-road in some tough conditions and the electric vehicles are not man enough. What!
Oh dear, that is some rather large tyre tracks through the UNESCO guidelines on gender neutral language, 1999. Note the comments on page 4:
“There is a growing awareness that language does not merely reflect the way we think: it also shapes our thinking. If words and expressions that imply that women are inferior to men are constantly used, that assumption of inferiority tends to become part of our mindset.”
Words have power, chose your words carefully. Mind your language.