There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.
Words matter. It is a life learned lesson that we teach our children at a young age. Even Thumper, from Disney’s movie Bambi, reminds us with his famous quote, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” But over time and the anonymity of social media, we often forget that phrase. My life has introduced me to teaching kindergarten, to politics, to marketing, to owning my own business, and back to raising a family. Words matter in all of these endeavors. Perhaps more in some areas than in others.
In politics, the art of word crafting is all about “framing the debate”- what is it you want to change or what is it your want to redefine? It is here that sometime I believe we, as the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), could impact policies and public perception the most.
One of the perception of the public about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the misconceptions about “sugar” and how we manage them. THERE…that word….SUGAR. If we want to redefine the debate around “sugar” and the perception of how “sugar” causes diabetes, shouldn’t we use the right terms in our discussions?
Diabetes is hard enough without all the misconceptions. But the reality is those misconceptions started from the medical field in its attempt to find out more about our disease. In the early years of our disease being discovered, often doctors would set out our urine in a field of ants and see if they would drink our urine, which if the ants drank, then we were overspilling glucose. Some doctors even referred to this as “The Sugars.” Here in the deep south of the United States, I still hear people refer to diabetes as “The Sugars.”
We claim to check our “sugar’ when referring to checking our glucose levels in our meters. We are guilty of telling people our sugar is too high, or our sugar is too low. It is not a wonder why people are confused about sugar and diabetes. I can see how the connection to sugar for the general public has been establish as a caused of diabetes. And it is my opinion we add fuel to that misconception by the words we used.
What if we took out the word sugar when we are discussing diabetes and replace it with glucose? Sugar is an ingredient in recipes, it is an endearing term for your better half, and people tend to like it in their coffee…or here in the south, tea. I prefer not to have sugar in my discussions about my disease.
Words Matters. And how we use them to reflect what we say is important. We have the power to drive the discussion. It is all about how we open the dialog and frame the discussion and it starts with us-those impacted by our disease the most.