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Another Lesson Learned: The Importance of Words

June 12, 2012

Words Matter.

No, I’m not talking about the things you say to your children. While watching what you say to children and how you say it is important, I’m talking about the messages on the t-shirts they wear.

If you give your child a Seattle Mariners t-shirt, does that mean he or she will grow up to be a Mariners fan? Probably…unless they get tired of backing losers. If you give the kid a shirt that says, “I’m with stupid,” does that lead her to disrespect the person the shirt is referring to? And if you dress him in a “party animal” shirt, does that make him more likely to drink later on?

Although I’ve written for parenting publications, I wasn’t the type of person who would give the issue much thought until I took my kids to a festival on the Seattle waterfront this past weekend. Unbeknownst to me, they decided to wear matching t-shirts and these are the only shirts they have that happen to match:

In case you weren’t aware –and my wife wasn’t–the Urban Dictionary defines the phrase “tweaker” as “A methamphetamine addict or…speed addict.”

While the phrase may seem cute and even a little amusing at a community center in the city’s north end, miles away from the retail core, it means something quite different at Seattle’s waterfront. In case I had forgotten, I was quickly reminded of that point when a street person saw the shirts, laughed and commented on how appropriate it was for the neighborhood.

While I don’t mind amusing a homeless person, I admit that I’m puzzled over the choice of names for the kids program. Considering that the parks and recreation department is based in an urban area where tweaking is a problem, you’d think they’d know that calling kids “tweakers” is inappropriate. It also begs the question, is there a teen program called “big tweakers”? Or is that a program that is based in Monroe (home of the Washington State Reformatory)?

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I’m going to call up the folks at the Parks Department and give them a piece of my mind.

Just as soon as I register my kids for the next level of sports program, Little Recidivists.

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