Column: Purr more and snarl less


Are you a dog person or a cat person? This is the age-old debate. Dogs tend to be extroverted and needy, while cats are generally independent-yet-murderous. Pick your poison.

My wife and I made the ill-informed decision to get a dog last year. After our third child was born, we thought it would be a great idea to add a puppy to the mix. Enter Socks the cockapoo. Socks is cute — bless his heart — but he’s not that smart.

At this point, I’m not going to stay neutral on the dog-cat divide, nor am I going to pick one or the other. Rather, I choose the third option: neither. I don’t think I’m a pet person, although I am the primary person to feed the dog, clean up after the dog and take the dog to vet and grooming appointments. Go figure.

Right now, you’re wondering, ‘Hey, Grammar Guy, what’s the word?’ Today we’re tackling the dog-eat-dog world of snarl words and purr words. You see, when it comes to arguments (like cats versus dogs), snarl words and purr words can change the trajectory of the conversation, for good or for better.

A snarl word is like a growling dog — baring its teeth to try to intimidate and demean its opponent. You’ll see snarl words in online debates and political…ahem…discourse. When people throw around terms such as “bigot,” “fascist,” “terrorist” and “pineapple-on-pizza lover,” they’re lobbing snarl words like they’re verbal grenades.

Whether snarl words hit their targets or not, they never win the war. In fact, these growling dogs only further the divide between the opposing parties. Remember that when you’re debating politics with your Uncle Rik at Thanksgiving dinner.

Purr words, on the other hand, are used to establish a positive and calming tone in a conversation. Think of Mr. Rogers or Bob Ross entering into an argument. The purring nature of soothing words changes the timbre of the discussion. When someone comes in with a tranquil attitude, the heightened discourse dissipates. Using words like “trust,” “security,” “freedom” and “home” connote positive vibes that can win over harsh critics.

Whether you prefer dogs or cats, I’d like to suggest we start to employ more purr words into our rhetoric. In fact, you and your political polar opposite acquaintance may both share an affinity for cockapoos. Purr more and snarl less.