There are a number of words in the English language that sound like what they are or what they describe. The proper linguistic term for this phenomenon is onomatopoeia. Kind of sounds like some exotic soap opera tropical disease, right? Some prime examples of these types of words would be squish, hiccup, and sizzle. Yet there is a simple, one-syllable word that invokes the greatest influence simply by being uttered. That word is “yuck!”
We were conditioned to respond to this word early on in our childhoods. Mom or Dad would simply bellow the word “yuck” and we knew in an instant that we were in forbidden territory! We would freeze in our tracks, back away from the undesired object, and put on our most angelic of faces. Soon we reached an age where we were able to discern between right and wrong, and the need for this powerful word fell by the wayside.
We were not quite out of the woods yet, and a new series of dangers presented themselves to us. Our parents would not always be there to share their wise counsel with us. In the absence of the spoken “yuck,” we were presented with the visual version. Who can forget the fear-inspiring “Mr. Yuk?” He was a simple sticker that displayed a disdainful expression on his face. The eyes were scrunched up, the tongue was sticking out, and his complexion could only be described as post-mortem! He was meant to be affixed to undesirable playthings such as cans of industrial cleanser and jugs of gasoline. The inanimate warning served its purpose, as I had nightmares of Mr. Yuk chasing me through a cavernous garage filled with unfathomable toxins!
The magnitude of this simple word is not just reserved for humans. I can be on an early morning walk with my dog and witness its influence. I can look her in the eye and say squish, hiccup, and sizzle until I am blue in the face. The only response is a puzzled look that can only be delivered by a hound’s face. Yet I let out a strong “yuck” and she backs away from whatever her nose was just buried in. You guessed it; I then get that most angelic of faces as a response!
As adults, we are still faced with situations that can spell out danger. Some are very obvious and we steer clear of them without a second thought. A sign proclaiming that there is “blasting in progress” will make any of us cross over to the other side of the street. But there are those situations that are not quite so black and white. A certain choice may seem appealing at the moment, but it is destined to haunt us later on.
How often do we look out for ourselves at the expense of another? Do we carry out acts that we know are self-destructive, hoping that nobody will be the wiser? Do we lie to ourselves in order to justify behavior that deep down we know is harmful? Are we drinking from the figurative bottle of lye, convinced that we are invulnerable to its caustic effects? Are we ignoring the Mr. Yuk that lives within each of us?
Now is the time for each of us to unleash our inner yuck. Much like our parents did for us in the past; we need to harshly scold ourselves with a firm “yuck” when confronted with a decision that we know is harmful to ourselves or others. As for the stickers, each of us is confronted daily by people who are simply toxic. They seek to make us feel inferior, they judge us, and they could care less about us as fellow members of humanity. The answer is simple; slap a Mr. Yuk sticker right on the middle of their forehead! It will save the rest of us having to do so!