What’s in a Word?

Our language and the words we use color our lives and the world we live in. The words we chose make a difference in many subtle ways that we may not even see right away. Photo: Oxford English Dictionary

WASHINGTON, MAY 22, 2012 – Our language and the words we use color our lives and the world we live in. The words we chose make a difference in many subtle ways that we may not even see right away.

Last night I tuned in to the National Geographic channel to watch the first show in a new series about fish tanks. I was horrified to see the very first show was titled “Pimp my Tank”.

Why would such a well-known and established channel like National Geographic decide to use those words? Did they think that the word “pimp” was a good choice to bring in the younger generation? Did they feel the word pimp meant something other than the definition in the Oxford Dictionary, which is “a man who controls prostitutes and arranges for clients for them taking a percentage of their earnings in return?”

If our world is colored by the words we use, then the growing trend to use the word pimp lightly in day to day conversation is coloring our world a very dark color.

In 2003, rapper Nelly released his song “Pimp Juice” and followed his song with an energy drink called Pimp Juice. Marketed as hip hop’s #1 energy drink when it was released, the name of the energy drink enraged several groups including the National Black Anti-Defamation League and the National Alliance for Positive Action, who called for a national boycott of the drink and the stores who were selling it. The drink can only be bought now online through an Australian company.

Demetrius Denham, co-founder of Fillmore Street Brewery spoke out in defense of Pimp Juice saying “the term pimp has changed meaning over the years.”

I beg to differ.  A pimp is a pimp is a pimp.  The word still means the same thing it always has. The definition of a pimp is a predator and a parasite that profits off of the misfortune of others.

Incredibly, in 2004 rapper Snoop Dogg won an Adult Video News Award for top selling tape for his Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp. And MTV’s television show Pimp My Ride which ran from 2004 through 2007 attempted to glamorize the word “pimp” by associating it with flashy jewelry and fast cars. Sadly some of media’s influence did effect the younger generation, who had no idea of the true meaning of the word pimp.

I will never forget the day my daughter came home from middle school saying her teacher was putting together a “pimp and ho” party. Apparently even in the school system the word pimp was somehow being taken lightly and being glamorized, by even the teachers.

I was trafficked as a young girl and I know first-hand what a pimp is, but even if I had never been trafficked I would feel that the use of words matters a great deal. Words and how we use them bring different images to our minds.  Words can hurt or help.

Desensitizing young people to words like pimp, ho, and other horrible words can only hurt them and us. What is happening in our world that we are able to use these words so easily?

What’s in a word? Our generation’s entire future, because with words we communicate and shape our world.


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Barbara Amaya

As a survivor of human trafficking Barbara Amaya speaks and writes from her experiences as a trafficked child. She has been published in varied media like Yahoo Voices! More magazine and her story of overcoming adversity has been featured on Fox News, Channel 4, Examiner, Animal New York, Washington Times and more.

She has a book in progress, A Girl’s Guide to Survival: Life Lessons from the Street, and has written a graphic novel about human trafficking targeted for middle and high school age students, you can get updates about Barbara her books and her activities in the anti-trafficking community at her website www.barbaraamaya.com follow her on twitter barbaraamaya4 and on facebook, linkedin and google + and pinterest

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