We live in a world where free speech is repeatedly under threat. Free speech is, quite simply, the right to express your thoughts, opinions, ideas and beliefs through speech without being censored or shut down in any way. In other words, it’s saying whatever you want to say without restrictions. It should be a simple concept and a simple right, and yet it’s become increasingly threatened over the past few years. Search online and you’ll find many examples of people being told they can’t say this or that because of one reason or another – more often than not these days, people are told not to say certain things in case it offends a certain minority group.
One of the latest examples comes from PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This animal rights organisation, based in Virginia, recently decreed in a tweet that using phrases such as ‘bringing home the bacon’, ‘killing two birds with one stone’ and taking the bull by the horns’ are anti-animal. Such phrases, the organisation claims, shouldn’t be used. Instead, alternatives such as ‘bringing home the bagels’, ‘feeding two birds with one scone’ and ‘taking the flower by the thorns’ should be used. This is just another example of the many people, groups and organisations that have decided that a word or phrase is offensive and have insisted people stop using those words and phrases. In other words, they’re attempting to cut back on our free speech, one by one. Anyone, whether it’s an individual or someone who’s part of a group, who tells you not to say certain things is themselves in the wrong.
Why is that? Because we shouldn’t be censoring the way we speak. We shouldn’t go through life constantly worrying about what we say in case it upsets someone. The list of words and phrases some people find fault with is constantly growing and, unfortunately, shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. If you stopped using every word or phrase that someone somewhere pointed out was offensive in some way, you’d eventually end up with a much more limited vocabulary than what you have today. If a word or phrase you use is offensive, that shouldn’t stop you speaking the way you do. You shouldn’t alter or even limit your vocabulary to please the easily offended. Once you start switching out particular words and phrases for non-offensive ones, it’s a slippery slope because you’ll keep on doing it and will end up frustrated at how many things you’ve stopped yourself from saying.
No single word or phrase is offensive on its own. Offence comes from context and it’s up for those who hear the words being said to determine whether they’re offensive or not. If you say ‘beat a dead horse’ and someone you’re with says that’s offensive and says you shouldn’t use that phrase again, here’s what you do: you use that phrase at every given opportunity. Every time someone tells you that you can’t say something, say it again and again and again. By doing so, you’re exercising your right to free speech and if anyone has a problem with that or with what you’re saying, that’s their issue and not yours.
So, you should go through life using the words and phrases you choose to use and never censoring yourself for anyone or for any reason. Words are fascinating, phrases are intriguing and language is incredibly beautiful and complex. Make the most of your knowledge of it and don’t start crossing off certain parts of the vocabulary as banned just to make other people happy. It’s your life, your vocabulary and your right to free speech. Say what you want when you want. If someone tells you to stop saying something, that says more about them than it does about you.