Let’s talk about labels, shall we?
Labels can be comforting
They give us sense of belonging and help us classify people
Married, student, father
Labels can be the most convenient excuse
They help us victimize ourselves and soften people’s expectations of us
ADD, OCD, sociopath, introvert (my personal favorite)
Some labels take a lot of work and effort to get and are worn with pride
Athlete, PhD, pioneer, CEO
Labels are often subjective and therefore open to interpretation
Beautiful, happy, successful and so many other labels can be interpreted differently based on one’s experiences, preferences and even cultural context.
Labels can be limiting…
…when used as a judgement tool. Once you label someone an asshole, you limit yourself to seeing only an asshole in them and miss on so many wonderful things that person can be. Although, I admit, in certain contexts those limitations can, again, give us comfort: for instance, when we break up with someone, it eases our life to see them as an asshole and disregard the good things about them.
As a linguist, I believe like anyone that labels are fascinating. They allow for endless discussions and journeys into other people’s minds. And as someone who dedicated years of her life to proudly wear the label “linguist” I encourage and bag you: when labeling people or ideas, please proceed with caution. A well-structured explicit definition attached to a label goes a long way and prevents so many communication issues from ruining our love lives, friendships and work partnerships.