The old childhood retort about “sticks and stones” is wrong. Words can hurt — and it’s a hurt that sometimes can take much longer to heal than broken bones.

Name-calling is nothing new in society. But the speed at which hurtful words can be spread has accelerated with today’s technology.

Some comments on stories on this newspaper’s Web site are a  case in point .

It’s too bad the knowledge of how those words hurt cannot be spread — and understood — equally fast.

Efforts such as Special Olympics Illinois’ Spread the Word to End the Word are commendable and we wish them success in helping people understand the hurt caused by using the word “retard” and persuading people to stop using “the ‘R’ word.”

Parkside Elementary School in Normal is one of three schools in the state participating in the campaign.

The school already participates in Special Olympics Illinois’ Young Athletes program and has a program called Project Unity. These programs team older children with younger students or special-needs students.

The more children get to know others who might be different from themselves, the better they will understand the differences and also see the similarities. It seems there are adults who could use some education in this regard as well.

It’s bad enough when a word such as  “retard” is used as a schoolyard taunt, but it’s particularly disturbing to hear it used by adults who should no better — such as White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and talk show commentator Rush Limbaugh, regardless of whether the latter was using it as “satire.”

The issue here isn’t political correctness and whether to say “mentally challenged” or some other phrase in place of “mentally retarded.” The bigger issue is using the word in a way meant to be hurtful or insulting.

The hurtful word that is in the news today is “retard” or “retarded.” But there are many words that can cause deep hurt.

Sometimes they are used intentionally to hurt someone; other times, the hurt is unintentional or harms someone who wasn’t the target.

Yes, it helps to have thick skin and brush off hurtful words.

But, it helps even more to have people make an effort to think before they speak and to strive for more civility.

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