Dust Mask Semantics

I found this box of dust masks in our supply closet at work and immediately brought it to the attention of my supervisor.  Look closely and hopefully you’ll see why.

nuisance dust mask

Would you want to use a dust mask that is a nuisance?  Of course not.  I’d rather use one that is convenient, safe, useful… definitely not a nuisance.  My manager pointed out that maybe it wasn’t the mask that was a nuisance but that it was a mask for someone who is a nuisance, hence the “nuisance dust mask.”  I immediately thought of someone at the office for whom that kind of mask would be appropriate.  Someone who has been a thorn in the side of many.

It’s all in the way we interpret words strung together.  Although, I’m too tired right now to think of a specific experience, I know that in relationships what our partner says is always subject to interpretation because of word choice, order or tone.  Did she really say, she’d think about it (and get back to me) or she’d think about it (end of conversation)? Then there’s the usual “that’s not what I meant.”  As if we can read each other’s minds.  But we expect that don’t we?  I know I do.  “We’ve been together for 23 years, you know what I mean!”  Or at least I WANT you to know what I mean.  Passing years have told me that even though I want her to know exactly what I want, and what I need, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.   But even with that knowledge, it still happens.  I’m a creature of habit and even when the habit isn’t always fun.  I’m also a stickler for words.  “That’s not what you said!”

I believe words have power and that makes word selection very important to me.  Even in this “rambling” blog of mine, I read and reread and edit, fearing scrutiny by my readers as if it’s an essay to be turned in.  Yes, to be understood, you need to be clear.

And then all of this gets thrown out the window when my kids correct me.  I asked, “do you want to color eggs?”  And rather than a simple “yes” or “no” which would have been very clear to me, I was greeted with, “you mean dye eggs not color them.”  Oooooooh.

It’s a double standard.  What I want and not always what I give.  Hard as I try, clarity often evades me.  Sometimes, like the Easter eggs, it’s word choice; sometimes I am too long winded (I can’t help it, the writer in me loves to tell a story and bring out emotion); other times I am vague, skipping detials and assuming that “you know what I mean.”

Bottom line: Words have power.  Power to be mis/understood, power to evoke feelings, power to control a situation and even power to change a situation.  What do you have to say?

Good night.


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