Niagara Gazette

April 19, 2013

HAMILTON: Are we to be tinkled or tickled by each other?

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Do we get tinkled or tickled by each other?

The answer to that question may influence your destiny.

Many children hate to have their hair washed. Little Legend, Samika Sullivan’s 3-year old angel, vehemently expressed her anger on the night that she had to have the sand washed from her head; the sand that one of the little boys at her day care class had tossed there.

The next day, strapped in the backseat of her mother’s automobile, she overheard her aunt asking her mother how she had endured the washing and Samika told her that Legend was really ‘pissed’ off at the boy for throwing the sand in her hair. Legend immediately chimed in, “Yeah, I was ‘pissed’ off.”

Legend’s aunt then said to the child, “I’m sorry; we shouldn’t have used that word. That is not a very nice word to say.”

Seemingly advanced beyond her few years, Legend felt a bit of remorse and said, “Oh,” and thought about it for a moment; then continued by asking, “Well, is ‘tinkled’ a nice word?”

When Samika agreed that ‘tinkled’ was a nice word, Legend enthusiastically responded, “Well, I was ‘tinkled’ off at (that boy)!” she said.

Legend seemingly has recognized that there is a nice way even to express anger, even if that nice way says exactly the same thing as did the other. It is a testament to what Limbaugh says, in that, “Words mean things.” With the syllabic brush of the speaker’s thoughts, their words paint a colorful, abstract, verbal picture upon the mental canvass of another person’s mind.

But, too often; others have a differing preference for oil, acrylic or watercolored words. They then have come to hold others more accountable, not for what they painted, but for which medium they used and how it was interpreted; and the message wrapped in those words can easily be lost.

In Legend’s case, her words were interpreted in the context of a common culture, and within a common sex and gender. For some reason, in this arena of so-called equality, there are some things that some people can say to others will be interpreted as meant, but only if it is said within the confines of commonality, such as was with Legend’s expression of disappointment. But if said by others who are not like the recipient, then it is likely interpreted as offensive, even if that was not the intention of the speaker.

Gazette photographer Dan Cappellazzo says that his parents came to America “fresh off the boat.” He says that he is about as Italian as they come, and he has heard all of the Italian slurs imaginable bandied about the dinner tables of his life. “But,“ he said, “if someone who isn’t Italian says those same words, then a lot of Italians would get ‘pissed’ off.’ “

And so it is with every ethnicity, race, sex, gender or other kind of group; and I doubt if their anger is based so much upon the words that are said, but more upon the insecurities of those hearing them, regardless of what the interpretation or the intention might have been.

When we are secure enough with ourselves, then, as Legend is soon likely to learn, “sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will ever hurt us.”

That is, not unless we are already hurting ourselves.

Even if we are brothers or sisters keepers, we can only be held accountable for what we do, but not for how they think. After all, actions supposedly speak louder than words, as Legend’s sandy hair attested to in both the receiving and the lathering of the sand from her head.

But, I guess, until we hodgepodge of Americans all grow up and be honest with ourselves, and then come to the realization that we think way too little of ourselves and much too much of others, we will just walk around ‘pissed’ off at each and remain where we are. Meanwhile, we have to tiptoe around our tongue.

Legend will likely move on with her life, go on to Kindergarten, off to college and then into the world of which, by changing herself, she will be an agent of change for others -- all because she has learned how not to be ‘pissed’ off at anyone. Instead, she learned to be just “tinkled” at them.

One day, Legend will confidently even learn how to be “tickled” by it all.

If she can learn those things, we can learn them too.

Contact Ken Hamilton at