Words Matter – Avoid the “de-words”!

I’m enjoying reading the new book Our Towns – A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America by James Fallows (@JamesFallows) and Deborah Fallows (@FallowsDeb). On my morning walk this morning I was listening to the audiobook version of Our Towns during their discussion of their time in Eastport, Maine.

During one of Deb’s sections, she commented about local language – and how the locals in Eastport are using language as “a power tool of their development.” She described how a local group of women in Eastport had noticed the use of “de– words” in many articles describing Eastport – “words like: ‘depressed,’ ‘dependent,’ ‘decline,’ ‘despair’” and how those words were often used to describe aspects of Eastport’s economics, services, schools, or population.

Deb describes how this group then set forth to crowd out the de- words with re- words: like ‘rebound,’ ‘rediscover,’ ‘redesign,’ ‘reverse,’ ‘renew,’ ‘reenergize,’ ‘reemerge.’ and that they encouraged reporters and politicians to substitute the more positive words in their descriptions of Eastport. What a great idea!…

For more background on the book – and some of their findings and conclusions from their journey – see this video of them at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

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