By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
Docked in San Diego across the harbor from the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, sits the aircraft carrier known as the USS CVN 70. Also known as the USS Carl Vinson. On July 2nd of 2014 we had the occasion to dine on the flight deck of the Midway and while doing so noticed the USS CVN 70. I asked about the ship and was told it was the ship that Osama bin Laden’s body was carried to for identification after his capture. I was also told it was from that ship his body was disposed of.
I found it strange to hear the word “disposed of” used in place of “burial at sea”. Although the official statement is he was giving an Islamic ceremony and burial at sea, the term I heard used several times was “disposed of”. The event occurred and the terminology remains to be determined but what is noted is the choice of terminology used and by whom.
You must note that San Diego is a military town and I can understand their, or anyone’s, disdain for the dead terrorist and the acts he committed. I fully understand the refusal to acknowledge even the slightest implication of honor towards the terrorist by using the term “burial at sea”. The very thought of giving him such respect is hard to stomach for many, thus the disrespect shown through verbiage.
Words like actions reveal much to us. Someone ignored, snubbed, dismissed can be done so by either word or deed. As an example in the paragraph above you may have noted I never mentioned the name of “the terrorist” only the title given him. Also note that the absence of words, his name, also can show the same regard as the absence of actions. As writers we must be able to use our words carefully.
When deciding on our words we must decide the message we are sending. The ones receiving it as well as the character speaking it aid us in determining the words. Will they want to hear disposal or burial at sea? Will it make a difference in their determination of the subject of conversation or the one bringing the message? It all could make an impact on our writing being understood in the way we want. Choose your words accordingly and your writing will be received as you have presented it.