Thursday, August 27, 2009

Word Wonder -- stupid

6. a general term of disparagement

[From the Latin stupidus, which means "struck dumb" which, in turn, comes from stupere, which means "to be stunned"] - Funk & Wagnall's Canadian College Dictionary

"Stupid" is such a loaded word! Yet you can see from its history that its meaning has changed over time. At first it meant "to be stunned." When we're stunned by an event or have received shocking news, we are easily stunned into silence -- struck dumb -- not stupid, just speechless.

Human beings can be nasty, and somehow, somewhere, that word stupere began to be used as an insult. Unfortunately, insults stick really well. So now, the word "stupid" is thrown around for all sorts of reasons and as a result of many actions and inactions. "He's so stupid." "How could you be so stupid?!"

This hurtful word is intended to make someone feel inferior. Many people learn the incorrect lesson that they are inferior to others, so they learn to accept -- and dish out -- the label "stupid".

But you can rethink your use of this word. You can distance yourself from its negative definitions by considering the following:

* Taking your time to speak is not stupid.

* Being different is not stupid.

* Lack of knowledge does not equal stupidity. Do you know anyone who knows everything? I don't know how to repair a car, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid; I just don't know how to repair a car.

* Making a mistake is not stupid. Every single human being makes mistakes, and some of them are very useful. Microwaves were accidentally found to melt the chocolate in a scientist's pocket. Silly putty was found by mistake when scientists were seeking a substitute for rubber. Somebody clumsily fell through an old floor and found King Tut's tomb. A woman who thought chunks of chocolate would melt and make the cookies chocolate made a really delicious mistake when she found out the chunks didn't melt completely.

Even if your mistakes don't lead to major discoveries for humankind, they still do not make you stupid. Ask yourself, "Would it help if I change what I'm doing so this doesn't happen again? What can I learn from this? "

You are not stupid. Period. You don't have to accept this label, and you don't have to fling it at anyone else.

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