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The Power of a Word - Dilbert Blog

The Power of a Word

Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone’s beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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In reaction to my prior post about Trayvon Martin, a reader here named Happy left a comment that is so well-worded I’m going to reproduce it below. The central brilliance of Happy’s writing is that he substituted an unloaded word for a loaded word and it transformed the argument. I even like his choices for line spacing and pacing. And check out the word economy; nothing wasted.

I’m not endorsing Happy’s opinion. I’m just impressed by the persuasiveness of his writing. In Happy’s words…

“When I buy a can of Coke, I see the label, and I know what to expect.

Stereotypes are wrong of course. But brands are good.

So if there are a bunch of people that dress a certain way, and act a certain way, they are creating a brand for themselves.

There’s a nerd brand. There’s a metro-sexual brand. There’s a jock brand, a cheerleader brand, a gothic brand… I can go on but of course you know what I mean.

Then there is a gangster brand.

This may be shocking, but if you dress like a gangster – talk like a gangster – and ride around in a car like a gangster, people are bound to pick up on the brand you’re showcasing.

I suppose it could be related to race – but I don’t think so. I can have the above stereotypes in any race – no problem.

If you want to be treated like a nerd, dress like a nerd. You want to be treated like a gangster, knock yourself out, and dress and act like a bad-ass.

But when you do, don’t get upset when people react to the brand you’re pushing.

Does that make it right for someone to beat you up because you’re a nerd, or shoot you in cold blood because you look like a gangster? Hell no – of course not.

But on the other hand – if you dress like a respectable member of society, the chance of getting treated better is certainly going to be higher.

So why bother acting like a bad-ass?

I don’t get it.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of this case – that’s not the point. The important thing to remember for us and our families is that it’s important to portray the right, positive brand. It won’t hurt to make the world a better place, now will it?

So put away the gangster image. Don’t do it – and don’t let your family do it. The world will be a better place for it.”

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Someone famous once said, “You’re not a writer until a writer tells you you’re a writer.” You’re a writer, Happy. But I suspect you already do that for a living.