Word games: Pippa Kelly

pippa kellyA delightful virtual friend of mine, Pippa Kelly (@piponthecommons) wrote this interesting blog titled Word Games which takes the language debate of a few weeks ago further. My blogs around that time sparked some very interesting conversations; for those of you catching up, go and read the blogs I wrote around that same time along with the numerous very useful comments. Following on in the same spirit, on 6 February 2014 Pippa wrote:

“Word games?

As a journalist I’m wary of word counts and in the past I have been known to refer to “dementia sufferers” rather than “people living with dementia” because two words are always better than four in the world of the hack.
Now my use of language is being challenged.  Not by pedants (I’d easily see them off), but by others whose opinions are harder to dismiss.Those living with dementia are finding their voice and starting to be heard, which is great, and overdue.

In the course of my writing I’ve recently spoken to several people with dementia.  There’s a natural selection process at work – it would be useless and inappropriate for the Alzheimer’s Society or Dementia UK to put up for interview anyone who is too confused or has lost the power of speech.

But as someone whose own mother had dementia for the last few years of her life, I have been delighted and humbled by the articulacy of those I’ve interviewed.  I immediately knew that to describe them as sufferers wouldn’t be right and I tried, from that moment, to avoid the term.

Of course, as ever with language, the issue runs much deeper than the words themselves.  The dementia community – those living with the condition, their carers, medics and other related professionals – are questioning not just the terminology used by wider society, but our attitudes.

How the rest of us describe those with dementia, how we talk about them, reflects how we think of them.   Already, by using the words “us” and “them”, I have erected a subtle verbal barrier that I don’t like, but what irks me isn’t the point here.

Read more…

Follow the link, it is definitely worth it. Thank you Pippa for your friendship, wisdom and insight.

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