Words have meaning and they have power. They can set people free or they can help a nation come to terms with its grief. Words can lift us to our highest apirations or they can belittle those we look down upon.
Peggy Noonan has said that writing is thinking. When writing, one gets to reflect, to edit, to choose just the right word to convey one’s thought. One can state a bedrock conviction or hint at things without drawing sharp lines. Words can construct dark myths or reflect the sunrise. Words can bestow respect or imply control.
The words a writer chooses can betray him and reveal how he feels -- how he sees the world. The words a person writes can reveal how he sees his relationship to others. If he does not do the thinking that Noonan recommends, he can reveal more than he would actually admit when directly asked.
As eyes can be the windows to one’s soul, the words one chooses can be the windows to one’s attitudes.
When I read a stratement such as “I’m going to watch a movie with the wife”, I wonder just how the writer relates to the woman he married. Is she a partner...an appendage...an equal? Or is she seen as a possession such as “the car” or “the couch”?
If, at another time, the same writer says “The wife won’t remove the dryer lint”, I think the writer’s point of view is revealed. It gives the reader a glimpse into the attitude of at least one-half of that reationship.
Had my former significant other referred to me as ‘the wife’ he would be sleeping on “the couch” for many nights. Had he again not been willing to claim me as “my wife”, thereby declaring to all that we were united without implying any inequality, he would have found himself with no shelter except for “the car”. I can be possessed by a husband, just as I possess him, but I will not be a husband’s possession. Nor will I be objectified.
So how would you feel if your husband referred to you as “the wife”?