Toxic word

Almost any word can be used toxically or non-toxically, according to context. However, some words are more often used toxically than others.

When a word is used toxically, it covertly diminishes the power or happiness of the speaker or listener.

Words are toxic for one or more of the following five reasons:

1) Should-ness words: The connotation of the word includes a "should" or "should not" component. This should-ness can easily distract us from an accurate assessment of BeCoPoRiNNOO of the presented claim.

  • "Defending your country is your duty."

  • "Don't be a loser."

  • "I just can't help being lazy."

  • "I trust her with my life."

  • "I told you so." (blaming)

  • "They expect me to take care of them." Expect implies some should-ness.

  • Why did you do that?" The "why" is accusatory, not curious.

2) Overgeneralizations: The word or expression overgeneralizes, thereby inviting inaccurate assessments in a specific circumstance (and often compounded with some should-ness).

  • "We will never give up." That's a recipe for possible disaster.

  • "You don't want to end up in a foster home." This implies that there is no foster home that would be satisfactory.

  • "I'm always good at doing that." There would be no occasion when you would not be so good at it?

3) Equivocations: The word or expression equivocates, avoiding the choice of making a clear decision.

  • "Maybe I'll come to the party tomorrow."

  • "I'll get back to you." Not specifying by what time or date.

  • "Just wait a minute." One minute? Five minutes? Until it's convenient?

  • "I'll try my best." What does "try" really mean. and how would you ever measure "best"?

4) Non-specific: The word or expression is non-specific and/or missing qualifiers that would be necessary for a more accurate assessment.

  • "It's not good enough." How specifically would you know if it were good enough?

  • "That's just something that has to be done." What specifically will happen if you don't do it? What are the BeCoPoRiNNOO for doing it compared to not doing it? Are there other permutations other than these two options?

  • "I don't have enough time." Could you take the time by rearranging or displacing something else; comparatively what would be the BeCoPoRiNNOO of that? Would there be a way to redesign your life to "have enough time" for everything that you want?

  • "You don't really love me." What specific behaviors or expressions are considered the criteria for deciding whether love is present or not?

5) Floating abstractions: These are words or phrases which live with none or very little grounding or evidence, with the assumption that the meaning is somehow clear and obvious.

  • "Getting a divorce is hard." What specifically is hard about it? Is it hard or is the way you're approaching it making it hard? Is divorce hard because it is something that people "should not" do?

  • "He's a jerk." The word jerk contains no specific, grounded referents. All it does is connate a pejorative opinion about someone.

See Toxic words: freshen up your mouth.