Since I’ve often spoken of my love of certain kinds of music, including hip hop, it would be understandable if you saw the title of this post and thought I meant it in some lame kind of “word to you mother” way (see post about Vanilla Ice).

But no, I do not.

I’m not sure when the one word directive really started to piss me off. I think before I got cancer, but I’m not sure. And I know these things are not “directives” but it seems that way to me. I’m talking about those little signs or wall plaques, or stones, or any number of dust collectors, er, I mean, knick knacks, that have one word on them. Believe. Faith. Hope. Courage. Love. Live. Spirit. Laugh. You get the idea. As in, rather than pithy slogans and soundbites I’ve so often derided, these are just the one single word. Like, “Word!” To your mother—ha ha just kidding!

Maybe those “Believe” signs crack me up the most, given the glut of them in the holiday season, exhorting me to believe or accept Santa Clause. I just imagine this giant finger pointing at my face whenever I see these one word directives. Sometimes it is a disembodied finger, sometimes it is attached to an old white man with a white hair and beard, like Santa or the image on God’s Twitter account. Get busy Curmudgeon! Laugh! Hope! Do stuff! Breathe–good grief I hope I do that without a command!! Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a yoga or meditation thing, and I do become aware of my breathing during my practice–but still–I can live without the signs telling me what to do.

While I’m sure these little plaques, woodcuts, and stones with one word directives on them annoyed me since always, I really became conscious of them once cancer entered my life, and they’ve irked me increasingly.  I’m sure my irritation is based on my annoyance with the aforementioned platitudes and slogans. Hell, all of cancer language is problematic. Hope in particular has been a personal white whale, see Complicated Relationship With Hope. And I’ve tackled some other buzzwords, like awareness, in Some Word Problems.

Slogans, fight language, and other word choices (ugh, awareness)  are always going to be an irksome issue in CancerLand for me and no doubt for many others. There is probably no point in going off about it once again like I am here now. So what ticked me off this week?

I was in the grocery store (my main hang out) the other day and saw the many women shopping after or before their gym time, in their athletic wear. I caught sight of one grey t-shirt with the pink words: Go! Fight! Cure!

Yes! Just! Like! That! With! An! Exclamation! Point! After! Every! Word! It struck me silly and I had a grim, eye-rolling laugh.


Now, I’m sure most of you reading my first paragraphs think I’m taking these doo dads with single words on them all wrong. They are not commands–more like reminders to have hope or courage, or to stop and breath in the roses or whatever. I’m being over sensitive or something. But when single words with exclamation points are on a piece of workout wear, in this case Under Armour because yeah, I looked it up, I’m pretty sure the words are an exhortation, a call to action. That’s the whole point with the athletic, weekend warrior, exercise til you puke culture, isn’t it? Run! And by running you shall cure cancer. OK, yeah, now I’m being snide. But you get what I mean, right?

Look, I’m not trying to pick on anyone who likes tchotckes with single words on them for decoration, or motivational workout wear. When I was a teen, in my gothy-all black all the time phase, I had a black t-shirt with the word “sin’ in white letters right in the center of the shirt. Boys used to yell “sin!” at me while I walked the boardwalk that summer. These days I poo poo even the notion of sin. Maybe I did back then too, I was just being a snot-nosed kid, thinking I was being oh so provocative. But I cannot help but fantasize about the existence of some less rah-rah workout clothes. I do own a few pieces that are neon bright, but trying to get something to do yoga in that doesn’t blind me with color or perky slogans is a challenge. I did see a water bottle that featured a woman running and saying, “this is a betrayal of everything I stand for.” Maybe I’ll find that on a breathable running shirt. So I can get in shape, while being snarky about it, because that suits me. Maybe I should make my own Cancer Curmudgeon t-shirt with my anarchy symbol over the ribbon, with something like, “no tumor today, but I didn’t use positive thinking on it.”  I’m not good at the slogans, so maybe I’ll think of something better later.

Maybe my aversion to the single word edicts boils down to my tendency to write these 1,000+ blog posts. No doubt I’m wordy, I’m a rambler. It is a regional thing I think (see here and here). I’ll leave the quippy sound bites, the slogans, and the one word orders to others. And I’ll try not to let the little one-worded items get to me. I don’t know. I’m writing this while in the waiting lobby of a wellness/massage/yoga place. When I leave here, I promise to NOT pick up the stone with the word “spirit” carved into it and throw it at an unsuspecting tourist (it’s nearly August, ALL beach locals get cranky right about now, no matter how centered and mindful we are). No chucking stones today, but I make no promises about next week–ha ha ha ha ha.

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

8 thoughts on “Word”

  1. This makes me laugh with recognition. I admit to occasionally — very occasionally — using ‘word’ as a comment on FB, indicating that I profoundly agree with the wisdom or righteousness of someone’s post. But for the rest? I totally agree with you. I hate these one-word slogans, exhortations, commands, whatever the heck they are, that appear on clothing, coffee mugs, water bottles, way too much crap. I can think and choose for myself, thanks. Don’t tell me what to do, and when I want your advice, I’ll ask for it. Oy. As if. Actually, just “Oy” on a teeshirt might be fun.

    😉 Kathi


    1. Oh I’m sure I’ve said “word” at people too. But ugh, the knick knacks with these one word engraved on them–just soooo not me. Although Oy on a t-shirt might be a good thing, you’re right! I mean it sums up my reaction to soooo many things. I could just point at my shirt rather than bother to have a reaction–how useful!
      It’s a silly complaint I know, but I just had to get this off my mind! Thanks! xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hahaha! This is a great post. I did not mind those words before cancer. Now I can’t stand them, especially when someone gives me a gift with any of those words you mentioned imprinted on it. Of course, people mean well and I wouldn’t want them to feel bad about their gift. But occasionally, I do have conversations about my dislike for such words with the hope they’ll get the point. Those words are intended to make people feel guilty about something they ‘did not do’ — how I see it. “Rebecca, be quiet and ‘faith’ or ‘love'” – as if I don’t already do those things? But even if I choose not to do them, that’s my business. Like you’ve mentioned a few times before, words matter a lot. Ah! This reminds me of the horoscope which I also dislike. Like when people have called me stubborn because I am a “Taurus”. There’s an audience for everything, I guess.

    If you ever print your own t-shirts, I’ll be the first to get one. Please do it!


    1. Yeah, people mean well, and I don’t mean to belittle anyone who likes these little items with words on them–I just got fed up with the ubiquity of their presence…like every time I turn around! I just had to blow off some steam, you know?
      Ha! If I ever come up with a t-shirt that is anti-everything all those other shirts are, I’ll do it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm. I could be really provocative. How about “dying!” or “f*cked” as a slogan for those among us who are stage 4? Might raise an eyebrow or two (among those lucky enough to have them and never experienced cancer). “Dumbstruck!” might be appropriate for the newly diagnosed and “Broken!” “Destitute!” and “Exhausted!” probably fit right in there on the cancer spectrum too. I’m not sure we’ll be seeing “dumbstruck, destitute, dying” as a replacement for “laugh, love, live” anytime soon but if I end up stage 4 like the rest of my family I’ll get it printed on all my clothes and see what happens…


    1. Yes, that would be provocative! Like “cancer costs wiped out my life savings” would be another good realistic cancer message–hmmm–could go on with this thread if I really thought about it! Sucker punched is how I describe my DX reaction–maybe that’s what I should put on a shirt! Heck, I’m still shocked about it, I still cannot quite believe it. Thanks!


  4. What a brilliant post! Like Rebecca, I didn’t mind the one-word calls to action before cancer, but now I’m sensitized to them. They piss me off. “Sucker punched” says it all. xoxo


    1. Thank you Beth! Like I said, I’m sure I scoffed at them before, but now they are just so irksome I kinda flinch when I see them out! (I’m confronted with that stone inscribed with the word spirit again today). And sucker punched is THE most descriptive word for my cancer experience. Sure maybe I should’ve expected it more, but I really did think it couldn’t happen to ME, despite how much criticism is lobbed about the fear mongering in campaigns. xoxox


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