Are Your Words Like Turds?


Are Your Words Like Turds?

Are your words like the turds you sometimes find in your yard?

Sometimes words can be soft. Sometimes words can be hard.

Am I being indelicate? Tactless? Coarse? Of course! I wanted to get your attention. I was lying in bed last night letting my imagination roam – though it does the same thing often when I am upright. And I was thinking about how we use descriptive words to make comparisons between ourselves and others.

But more often than not – without even consciously thinking about it – we use more positive adjectives and phrases – soft words – to describe our qualities when comparing ourselves to others.

Here is an example. If I want to compare my being careful with money, I might use a soft word and say: ‘I am frugal.’ I might describe your money-saving ability in a less positive manner as: ‘You are cheap.’ And compare a third person who is not close to me: ‘He is stingy.’ Definitely a hard word.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Frugal, cheap and stingy are words that describe someone who is being careful about spending money. But frugal is often seen as a positive word. Cheap is not quite as pleasant. And stingy is downright negative. Here are some more examples:

Are Your Words Like Turds?

Positive (soft words)
Not as positive
Negative (hard words)
I am eccentric.
You are unreasonable.
He is crazy.
I am self-confident.
You are egotistic.
She is arrogant.
I am selective.
You are choosy.
She is picky.
I am naïve.
You are childlike.
She is infantile.
I am authoritative.
You are domineering.
He is a bully.
I am fearless.
You are reckless.
She has a death wish.
I am firm.
You are obstinate.
He is pig-headed.
I am cautious.
You are hesitant.
She is fearful.
I state my case.
You vent.
He rants.
My clothes are dramatic.
Your clothes are flamboyant.
Her clothes are outlandish.
I negotiate.
You haggle.
He demands.
I am well-spoken.
You are talkative.
He never shuts up.
I am beautiful.
You are attractive.
She is pretty . . . plain.
I am creative.
You are random.
He is a loose cannon.
I write posts.
You write notes.
She writes post-it notes.
My child is inventive.
Your child is mischievous.
His child is a spoiled brat.
I am assertive.
You are bossy.
He is aggressive.
I compromise.
You give in.
She gives up.
I am organized.
You are overly neat.
He suffers from OCD.*
I am low on funds.
You are financially impaired.
He doesn’t have a pot to you-know-what in.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

* OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Can you think of some other comparison examples? Please let me know in the comments.

© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2015. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So."

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Comments for Are Your Words Like Turds? 38 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

Very clever title. You had me from the first sentence. I love the English language. We are given so many tools to work with, as writers. It's a shame some don't take advantage of them. Great article on this Friday afternoon.

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 22 months ago from USA

Good Doctor BJ (drbj on HubPages) -

I was instantly reminded of the old German farmer sitting atop his Ox-pulled wagon puffing on a great long tobacco pipe. The ox and wagon were being guided back and forth across his turnip field by his wife. They were in the process of spreading manure onto the field. They never said a single word as nearly as I could tell.

Gus :-)))

p.s.: It is best to eat no turnips.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Delighted I reeled you in with the title and the first sentence, Billy - exactly what I hoped to accomplish. I knew you would appreciate this somewhat offbeat post. Thanks for finding this worthwhile reading to begin your weekend. May it be pleasant and rewarding. Your weekend, that is.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Thganks, Gus, for that important reminder. I promise never to eat any foreign substance deposited on turnips. In fact I promise never to eat any turnips at all. They are not one of my favorites. I do appreciate your meaningful story though and will keep it in mind.

Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 22 months ago from Baltimore, MD

I have often heard the title is what pulls the reader in. If this is true, you will pull in plenty of readers with this title. You are so right... there are several ways you can say anything. I'd like to think I find the nicest way to say the meanest things to people. ;-) That is why I usually have the honor of breaking bad news to people at work.

mary615 profile image

mary615 22 months ago from Florida

I guess when I choose my words, I lean more toward the soft words. I call myself frugal, but my kids call me cheap!! Great title, BTW!

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 22 months ago from Texas

Yes indeed, the title did pull me in. But I am glad you did. This is a very thought-provoking idea.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

It is true, Jeannie, that a provocative title may pull in more readers. Whether they stay long enough to read the copy depends on the writer. I do believe you do try to say things in a nice way which is why you have the honor of sharing bad news to people at work.

I, too, had that honor when working with people who were about to lose their jobs. I quickly learned that the one phrase you must never use is: "I'm sorry." It invariably provokes a negative reaction ... instantly.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

I know from your hubs and your comments that you prefer soft words, Mary. I call myself frugal, too. If your kids use other nomenclature, just view it as a compliment. (laughing) Happy you noticed the title.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

I'm glad the title pulled you in, shanmarie, and that you found these words thought-provoking. That is a super compliment, m'dear.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

Hi drbj, didn't know what to expect after reading the title but had to check it out. Very informative and funny hub. I wonder how the word "turds" rates on Google search terms...pretty high I imagine.. :)

always exploring profile image

always exploring 22 months ago from Southern Illinois

laughed out loud reading Jodah's Google search remark, also your witty piece brought a smile. I guess I'm cheap. I love to buy bargins whether I need them or not...Hee..

MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 22 months ago

You certainly pulled me in with this title, and I was expecting something a little different: Like some words stink! Your table was very enjoyable to read, and I'm sure many of us see ourselves in it. I worked with a lady, a good Christian woman, who, when she wanted to call someone a bad name, always used the term "he's a turd." I loved the story of the turnips. Voted up++

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 22 months ago from California

You also grabbed me at your title--so many ways to feel the impact of words!

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

Hahaha, very clever with your title to draw us in, drbj! Excellent insight as to the use of soft words and harsh ones. I loved the chart too. That Mark Twain quote is spot on.

Thanks for the fun read.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Lol, dear Doc…I loved the title, and everything about this delightful hub. You always bring a smile a few giggles, and thoughtful reasoning to ponder. “Do you see where I’m going with this?” Uh huh…:-) Voted up +++ and shared.

Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 22 months ago from Mississauga, ON

English is my third language and I first tend to think in my own language then translate it into English. Any lesson in the use of English language from more proficient writers like yourself is most welcome.

Your hub is excellent. The title itself is so creative that I got pulled toward it. Please do share more.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 22 months ago from New York

What a great hub. Certainly one to make us give pause as to how we toss words around, not to mention the meanings we assign to those words. Feelings can be bolstered or torn down just by substituting a word as you pointed out so well.

How about; Chubby....overweight....fat

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 22 months ago from Massachusetts

I don't really think I use words to describe anyone for the most part, but I really think I stay away from describing myself. I tend to take things on a "case-by-case", instance-by-instance, choice-by-choice (etc.) basis. There are people who are what they are but then use words to try to paint a picture of who/what they are to others. There are also people who tend to paint one or another kind of picture of someone else based on isolated "snapshots" or actions, choices, preferences, etc. Having run into more than, I think, my share of people who use words to define me TO ME (!!!!)) (and so often in a way that has nothing to do with me whatsoever), I think I'm particularly atuned to trying not to do that to anyone else. And, I KNOW I'm so mind-boggled by i when someone else tries to define me to me, that's generally been enough for me to see red flags whenever someone uses words to describe someone else (or him/herself.

Maybe it's intentional, maybe it's just ignorance (or something else); but when all is said and done using "defining" words for anything other than absolutely most basic, general, traits/things; is essentially "image painting" of one sort or another.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

So glad, Jodah, that the title did not turn you off and you checked out the hub. Thanks for your kind words. I was wondering about Google's reaction to turds, too. So far ... so good. :)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 22 months ago from Orlando, FL

It is looking like I might be a bit of a turd, depending on my mood of the minute. I just might think twice now after reading this hub! :)

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an interesting hub, drbj. I love your table! I agree with other people, too - the title of the hub is definitely interesting!

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Good to know, Ruby, that Jodah and I brought you a laugh and a smile. I consider myself frugal but truth is, I'm probably being cheap when I'm searching for bargains.

I've heard it said that a man will pay $2 for a $1 item because he needs it. And a woman will pay $1 for an item she doesn't need because it's on sale. Would you agree? ;)

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Happy I pulled you in, MizB. Thanks for enjoying my comparison table. I guess that lady you worked with knew a turd when she saw one. And thanks for the Up pluses - you are the best!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 22 months ago from East Coast, United States

drbj - I love the chart and it had me laughing out loud. You have pointed out something that I think many of us ignore. How words (or phrases) are used can make a huge difference in what we say. I've noticed this when looking at or listening to news. They can take one story and depending on how it's put, or what words are used change the feeling of the story, slanting it in one direction or another.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

So happy, Audrey, that I grabbed the mistress of poetry by my title. Our words have even more power than we know.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 22 months ago from South Africa

She is authoritative, she is domineering, she is a bully - but only one of those on the list that suits me to a T, depending who's describing me :)

Informative hub, drbj. Not at all like a turd :)

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Delighted to know, Faith, that my title drew you in. And happy that you loved the chart with its comparisons. Twain is one of my favorite authors whose wit I admire. Spot on, indeed. Thanks for dropping by and your kind comments. The fun read is one me.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Thanks, Genna, for loving everything about this hub and smiling and giggling. And voting Up pluses and sharing. And seeing where I was going ... a direction I am not always certain of myself. Love ya, m'dear.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Nice to meet you, Suhail (and your dog as well). I commend you for your language literacy. Happy that my title pulled you in to this hub. English is a very difficult language even for those who learn it as a first language.

Thank you for your very kind comments. You might like to take a look at my hub, 'Homophones and Oronyms,' that might help to clear up some misconceptions about English.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for appreciating my take on the words we use to make comparisons, Mary. You are spot on with your remark that feelings can be bolstered or torn down with the words we use.

I like your comparisons. If I think of enough additional turdy words for a sequel, I will include chubby, overweight and fat. Thanks for your awesome adjectives.

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 22 months ago from California Gold Country

I appreciate soft words, but if I am shoveling up doggie doo, firmer specimens are easier to scoop.

I am predictably practical. You are a bit stuck in your ways,. He is obstinate and ornery.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Nice to meet you, Lisa HW. Thank you for taking the time to relate how you feel about using descriptive words as well as hearing them from others. Too often we use negative adjectives when making comparisons about others without really thinking how they may affect the person who hears or reads them.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Linda. You could never be a turd, m'dear. But if my take on the subject helps you to think twice when making comparisons with others, then I have accomplished my mission. :)

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Alicia. Thanks for finding both the title and the hub interesting, m'dear. That is the same way I view your work, y'know. Thanks for loving the table, too.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Dolores. Delighted you were laughing out loud at the chart. Here I thought I was the only one. :) You are so right about the way our news is delivered. It is not difficult to slant it one way or the other by the use of considered adjectives. Most of us are prone to do that, too, at times in ordinary conversation.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Thank you so much for proclaiming, Martie, that this hub is not at all like a turd. Makes my day, m'dear.

Now how can anyone describe you as anything but authoritative? Give me the name and address and I'll send over one of my 'cauliflower-ear' colleagues to set him/her straight.

drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Rochell. You appear to be an authority upon the subject of scooping turds, m'dear. Love your comparisons submission: 'I am predictably practical. You are a bit stuck in your ways. He is obstinate and ornery.' Promise to add them if I write a sequel.

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