The words and names have been part and parcel of the society both the primitive and the civilized. They possess great power and magic to perpetuate dehumanization and oppression especially of the less privileged in the society. It can merely be preposterous and a sheer folly to concur with the adage that, a word can never break a bone as stones and sticks would. One would argue that a rose flower will give the same scent regardless of the name you refer it with. However, from time immemorial to the present time the influence that comes from the power of naming and defining people has both positive and negative effects on the population. This paper addresses the oppressive side of language and naming to the disabled, women and the slaves. It discusses the difficulties and tragedies that these part of the population face in the society due to the societal definition of their status.

Great potency has been attributed to naming and defining things from time in the genesis when the power was bestowed to man to name all things by God (Bosmanjian, n.d). He further argues that to be unnamed is to lack an identity. One appears to be an alien, unknown and can be excommunicated from society. The first question that anyone including a toddler who is learning how to talk, would ask is “what is your name?” Receiving a name elevates the status of a person to a complete human being with proper definition and validity. It is pathological disgusting to divest the individual’s name. It makes one be reduced to a meaningless, contemptuous nonentity in life (Hertzler, n.d).

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Name-calling can lead to curses and can be blasphemous. It is a serious matter that it was prohibited in the courts and statutes in the United States of America from utterance (Chaplinsky, 1942). The law even prohibits libel because one’s name is so important.

  1. The language used in regards to people with disabilities

Language as a medium of passing out expressions exhibits all sentiments that describe various individuals in society. It is now a commonplace to use ableist language that prevails and reinforces difference and oppression of people with special needs and those with a physical disability (Udegbe, n.d). The language emphasizes and centralizes the disability of the individuals whenever referring to them. It further avoids words that would be euphemistic to physically disabled people. Surprisingly, language users overtly utter the dehumanizing words to the individual as if it is just a casual idea. For example, when referring to a person with a visual disability, the language users may call them the blind.

Those with a mental disability would be called “mad” while those who use a wheelchair called the lame or “the person in the wheelchair. All this is ableist language due to the fact that the words used centralizes the disability of the individual. Udegbe (n.d) describes this ableist language and a direct reflection of the public’s general attitude towards the people who are physically challenged. The language is very offensive, demeaning, oppressive and contemptuous to the subjects involved.

Appropriate and Inclusive language is important for the caregivers o to know whenever they are referring to the disabled persons. During learning activities in the classroom, the teachers often used scientific language to describe various disabilities without any regard of the presence of a student with such problems.

The scientific study of the physical disability in the classroom expounds the causative agent to the disability and the prognosis of the individual. This is also considered an ableist language. According to Adage (n.d), the physically disabled people suffer from the ableist language despite them having well-functioning parts of the body just like other human beings. The language makes the individuals view themselves as unsexy, pitiful, ugly, and definitely unattractive.  Through awareness to the public of the inclusive and nonableist language towards the disabled, they understand the centrality of their own disabilities. This will enable them to understand their experience as normal and not different from other human beings. According to Murugami (2009) people with disabilities fail to participate in various activities due to the discriminatory attitude and oppressive language used upon them by the general public.

All the words used for the physically disabled in a stereotypic manner have an original meaning that conveys prejudice towards them. Words like handicapped, crippled and confinement to a wheelchair are all demeaning. ‘Handicapped’ means a beggar with a cup in the hand looking for assistance. Confinement would mean that the individual will never get out of the wheelchair while in real sense it acts as mere mobility devise to give independence of movement.

When one considers that language conveyance medium of feelings, thought and attitude, then they would eliminate words and language that stereotype the individuals affected. This becomes essential in creating an inclusive environment (Blaska, n.d).




  1. Language oppression suffered by the Africans in the slavery trade

The trans-Atlantic slave trade where the black Africans were subjected to great suffering by the whites formed the basis of noninclusive language towards the slaves.  It is from this trade that words like the Negro were associated with black people and with hard work. Racism is just a human nature where anyone feared a person of different skin complexion. The association of one’s own skin with the oppressive subjectivity was the cause of ableism in the society

One of the integral parts of ay society is its language. It expresses its cultural, economic, political and historic attitude of the society. The dominant culture of the whites, for example, was that of being racists. The color symbolism was accompanied by either oppressive or soothing treatment during the African slave trade. The black was associated with evil, sin, unclean, disgraced and wicked. In contrast, the white color was associated with the angels, holiness, morally upright, and free from the evil (Cheney, 2006). There was implicit use of a master-slave relationship which meant that the master had total control of the captives. The use of such words and direct possession of the same by the Africans denounced the dignity of the Africans. This gave them the opportunity to rape them among other oppressions.

As the slave trade was coming to an end, the political and economic terminologies that the whites used made the blacks feel inferior. It was no surprise to here a politician reefing to the Africans as the economically disadvantaged ones. Others would refer their culturally deprived and their countries being underdeveloped. This was not true in that the youth from African grew in a bilingual environment. They could understand their own culture while at the same time adopting white people’s culture.

The white youth were brought up in a monocutural life by being discouraged from adopting foreign cultures especially from Africa. Burgess (2009) suggested that some of the words may be replaced with better words that that do not make them inferior. Culturally deprived can be replaced with “culturally dispossessed” economically disadvantaged can be replaced with “economically exploited”. Such terms would provide a different flame of reference as to the one that existed during the slave trade.

More loaded words in America were used so as to acquire property for the indigenous occupiers. Words like “discovered” were used by the Euro- Americans to evade the owners and to acquire their natural resources freely. Moreover, as they were grabbing the land from the slaves, they could use terms as defending, guarding or wading off their homeland. I real sense this land belonged to the Native Americans. In the magnitude, while the indiscriminate killing and plunder by the Euro-American was referred to as victory, the victory of the native Americans could be described as massacre.Ofeten the African continent was refer to as being darkest and its occupants being ‘pagans’, ‘uncivilized’,  ‘cannabalists’   and ‘savage ‘ people’(lafrance, 2006). This was just an image to ignore the fact that more than 20% of Africa is wooded and has rich culture and history.Lafrance (2006) suggests that the distortion was done so as to give room for European colonization and American slave trade .Consequently, they took advantage of the distortion to exploit the important resources.

On other instances where the history of immigration is written , the European are described to have moved to America in search of better places of living. The Africans are described to have been ‘brought to America’ by the whites. This portrays Africans Americans as people who did not know how to discover new places and that they were confined one place only. They forgot the role of the business people and slaveholders from the north who used to trade with human beings. This is the painful reason as to how they ended up in America.

In the sports, the presenters would use different qualifying adjectives to refer to different members of the team. When the team member belonged to the white team the article ‘we’ could be used, while those belonging to other teams were referred to as ‘they’. These appeared in the magazines to show difference in the origin of the athlete (Lafrance, 2006). The perspectives produced hence are distorting and would never be progressive merely due to the use of incorrect terminologies.

  1. Language oppression within feminism

Many centuries have passed when women have been painted as the downtrodden and powerless creature. They have been treated as the slave while the men act as the masters of the households, the country and the society at large (Elam p, 2010). It is clear that women have already realized that men superiority a mere myth and cannot hide their disappointment and disgust toward this myth. Moreover, the men are regarded as the head of the family and that the women are the ‘neck’ or the helper of the husband. From the biblical point of view, the women were created from the man and therefore have the mandate to submit to the man and offer him a companion. The women were not even allowed to offer sacrifices to God due to their ‘unclean’ nature. This put them in the less privileged species of the creation. (Reed, 2011)

In the sport field, it is not surprising to find the players use names attached negatively to women when celebrating a win. A word like ‘bitch’ is often used when celebrating victory in a match.” Take that bitch’ (Jamie, 2004). Other term used when referring to women to depict then as inferior includes, babe and honey are demeaning. This means that they are treated as weak creatures whose all dependence is on the man. If the woman tries to come out and defend herself, society marks her as disrespectful, and a lesbian.

Our language is a clear indication of the submissive nature of women. They are given titles that do not hide their identity and that indicates their belonging. Terms like ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’, automatically shows the marital status of the woman. ‘Mrs’ ‘indicates that the woman is married while Miss indicates that the woman is not married. This is as opposed to the men’s side. The term ‘Mr.’ is used generally to all males regardless of the, marital status and hence their ownership is not expressed to the society. (Schmore, n.d). It is in many cases that women are shunned from the leadership position where in the country or from the family. Their work is to rear children and to do household chores. In some societies, it is a curse for a woman to vie for political position. The leadership activities are left for the men. They include paying of bills, providing with daily bread and guarding the family.

In conclusion, language can play significant roles in society that may affect the lives of the individuals affected either positively or negatively. Important consideration should be taken so as to ensure inclusive environment free from oppression due to poor language use. This applies especially to the part of the population that seems less privileged who are the direct victims. Alternative words can be put in place so as to euphemize the previously used words.This way every individual will be treated equally in the society.





Bosmajian, A .n.d.  Introduction from the language oppression. web Retrieved from .com/The-language-oppression-Hiag-Bosmajian/dp/0819131865. Viewed on 15th Jan 2014.

Blaska, N. The Power of Language: Speak and Write Using fisrt person. Web .retrieved from Viewed on. 15th Jan 2014.

Udegbe, O. n.d.Inclusive language and disability; Snow e-journal. Web. Retrieved from. Viewed on 15th Jan 2014.

Murugami, M.W 2009. Disability and identity. The first journal in the field of disability studies.Vol 29 no 4.

Selfa, L. 2002.Slavery and origin of racism; international socialist review. Web. Retrieved from Viewed on 15th Jan 2014.

Lafrance & chiney 2006.Tricountry domestic andsexualviolence intervention network anti-oppression. Web . Retrievded from: www.actforaction .org .Viewed on 15th Jan 2014..

Elam .p, 2010.The myth of women oppression. Web Retrieved from: viewed on 15th Jan 2014.

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