She had prepared the case study for weeks, ready to impress Bain with her brilliant go to market strategy. I wanted to support her, and my fingers hovered over the letters of my iPhone, about to hastily type words of encouragement. The first thing that came to mind : You’ll kill it.”
Then “knock em dead.” Then, "break a leg".
There’s plenty more where these came from.
Hit two birds with one stone.
F them up.
Inspired by the brilliant feminist thinker Cynthia Enloe, whose works reflect on the increasing militarization of society in the past century, I’d like to call attention to one seemingly innocent aspect of our society that amplifies and perpetuates a militaristic, violent, culture: our daily language.
These commonly used, and overly violent phrases spill off of our tongues like saliva, often coming out as if pressing a button, as we don’t even think about the words we use so cavalierly.
Why is “killing it” equated with doing something good, even extremely well?
Why is hitting two birds with one stone an accomplishment? Ever seen a dead bird? It’s incredibly sad.
How about knock em dead. Why exactly do we want someone to put on a performance that leaves the audience cold and without a pulse at the end?
And one of my personal favorites for years, as a former opera singer, break a leg. Why would I want to break my leg during a show?
Yes, I know I’m taking these very literally, and they are meant to be quips, aphorisms, innocent phrases to express the end goal we want to see someone achieve. But once you notice one violent phrase, you can’t help noticing how common this lexicon is in our daily vocabulary- and how killing and beating and death are always associated with doing something good, when it should be quite the opposite.
As pastor Michael Traylor said, "When you regularly use the language of violence and degradation, you soon become participants in its degradation and pain, whether as victim or perpetrator."
We are in an age where we need to be intentional, where there is too much at stake to walk away without thinking carefully about the words that come out of our mouths.
So I ask you, does rooting for a team necessitate that your team “obliterates the other team?" Can't they just win?
Why do we want to live in a society that glorifies violence? Who wins in that paradigm?
I didn’t tell Alexandra to knock em dead, or that she’d kill it. Instead, I said, "You’ll do great. I believe in you.”