This discussion paper by BSA encourages those writing about stammering to move away from language, such as being ‘afflicted’ by a ‘terrible’ stammer, that perpetuates social stigma about stammering. The way we talk (pdf).
‘Overcome.’ That word alone almost drove me to write this document. It appears in so many newspaper headlines about stammering, and epitomises how the language used to talk about stammering reflects society’s stigmatised beliefs around it. While we continue to print headlines like “man overcomes his stammer”, we continue to deepen the belief that stammering is a defect that people who stammer can overcome if they just applied enough effort. It’s not.
It asks all of us – journalists, politicians, people who stammer – to study the words we use when talking about stammering. To re-consider calling a stammerer “afflicted” by their stammer and instead simply a “person who stammers”; to say a person has a “severe or frequent” stammer rather than a “terrible or awful” stammer. It points towards positive changes in language that will help reduce stigma in society against stammering and enable people who stammer to achieve all they can.
I am very pleased to provide this paper on behalf of the British Stammering Association, and am grateful to the many individuals who have contributed their input and thoughts.
Words are important and I hope you get a chance to read the ones in this document.
Patrick Campbell, BSA Trustee