Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

How can names be so hurtful?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) October 24th, 2012

Did you grow up hearing you mother tell you to say, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me?”

It’s a lie, apparently. I think I saw some research once showing that names are more hurtful than anything, but I’ve been telling myself it’s just a name all my life. It still makes my back tense up when I think someone is dissing me.

And here at fluther, we make it illegal. A post will get modded if you call someone a name. Why? Why are names so hurtful? Why do they incite violence so quickly?

Have you ever been brought to the boiling point by being called a name? How did you respond? How did you end it?

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11 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I absolutely hate name calling. You can swear ten times and raise your voice to me during an argument, but call me a name and I think it is horribly, inexcusably mean. I am not sure I would say I have been brought to a boiling point, but certainly very annoyed. My husband once in a while does some name calling. Nothing very sinister, but I hate when he does it, and I admit one of the things I hate most about it is if he is in the habit he might do it one time in front of others, and I would be mordified.

I think when name calling really hits home to someones insecurity it really hurts them and brings up feeling from the past, can be as far back as childhood. Teen boys who are called sissy or faggot, and are actually gay, I think it makes them feel harrassed, bullied, and freightened. Young girls when teased about their looks, told they are ugly, fat, or that they are stupid, that can send them down a path of insecurity and low self esteem.

Name calling has big consequences sometimes.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Words & name calling has the power to instill anger & pain that can haunt a person for life. A person should NEVER call anyone by a name that dismisses the person who is called the name.

zenvelo's avatar

It’s emotional abuse that strikes to the core of a person’s identity. Even what many think of as innocuous or not swearing so it’s not hurtful can wound at the heart of a person’s self respect.

We don’t allow the word “stupid” in my family. I have found it to be one of the most hurtful words possible.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Old English saying: call me anything you want, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Symbeline's avatar

Because names, when used towards one with hostility and the intent to hurt, are usually personal, and have something to do with that person, or are related to something the person did, and changed into something mean.
If they made a mistake, and you call them stupid for it, of course it hurts. They know they did a mistake, something stupid perhaps, and the relation is made. I mean even if they aren’t stupid, and that mistakes do happen, the relation can’t be ignored once it’s made. Some people can’t help but to take it personal. Or if someone’s big, and you call them a fatass or something. How does that not hurt? If you got some STD, and someone calls you a slut? The words may mean nothing, but the emphasis that a person can use to direct them towards you can be very hurtful, and is very real. Even more so if some relation is made, no matter how asinine and false it might be.
That whole sticks and stones thing I find to be a pathetic cop out. It’s like when you’re a kid and your parents tell you that bullies are more afraid of you than you are of them; okay thanks, but that doesn’t stop them from kicking my ass and taking my lunch money every day.

Unbroken's avatar

Admitedly they do hurt and have the capacity to. But how you handle the situation from that point on is testament to you. You can choose to get all prickly or to just take it, deflect it with humor, confront it bluntly but make sure you never have to deal with it again, gracefully spin it the tongue can be a delightfully double edged sword. Calmly and truthfully express how you feel about it and give them the option of crossing you or respecting you.
I think dealing with the matter returns some of the power to you. It starts the healing process like a nice salve. It can be difficult to start learning how to deal with it but it absolutely gets easier over time.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I do hate is being called a liar, and I think it’s because I am very offended by lies and liars.

They don’t hurt me per se, but they do offend me.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Names are used as a pejorative shorthand that tends to stick all too well, both in the mind of the person so called and among those who, hearing the name calling, adopt its meaning as if it were an adequate summation of the victim of name-calling.

Name calling is lazy and cruel. Those who do so are bullies, too fearful and weak to articulate their own beliefs and values and who choose to demean others and promote hatred.

augustlan's avatar

Good question, but they are. I bet I’d remember the hurt caused by name calling long after many physical pains have faded from memory.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I think insults cause reactions in people based on a few different things.

- They are speaking the truth, you really are a “lazy fat idiot”, or a “bigoted retard” and you realize the truth of it and it hurts.

- They are saying something that could impact how others see you, and have the potential to change your social life some how. Thus anger is summoned to defend yourself.

- They are totally wrong about a point being argued, when the insult comes you realize you have wasted your time talking to them because they are ignorant and closed off to your points, and then you get frustrated.

- They are smarter or better than you some how, or there is some kind of social agreement or stereotype saying they are better. E.g. A teacher calling a student stupid, etc.

- They are so stupid them selves, that the mere attempt to insult is offensive, because the dominant part of your brain does not like to be insulted by something it sees as a cockroach that it could crush.

… as well as a few others no doubt.

Luiveton's avatar

Because names hurt your ego and your personality.Physical contact only damages your surface if you know what I mean, it’s straightforward pain, and more honest, in a way. Names can work their way up to your brain and make you hate yourself more, they cause you to question everything that you are and ever will be.

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