Every generation has an idiosyncrasy or two about the way it uses the language. One of the most annoying misuses of a word today is “feel” instead of “think” or “believe.” While the word “feel” can mean something related to perception, it is not nearly as strong a word as the other two. In addition, it is being used much more frequently nowadays, mostly by young people when they really should be using one of the stronger words.
Why are so many young people overusing “feel” when they really mean “think” or “believe?” My own theory is that the tolerance movement is probably a major contributing factor. No one wants to offend anyone else. We are all supposed to be “politically-correct” and not step on anyone’s toes. Having certain thoughts about something – or stronger still, beliefs – will offend someone, so a way to soften the blow is to use a gentler word, hence “feel.”
As a writer and editor, I object to what I believe is a misuse of this word. Whether in speech or writing, please ask yourself what you mean before you say or write it. Is the issue about a law that should be passed or revoked, for instance? If you are just “feeling” one way or another about it, then ask yourself whether it is really that important to you. I would say that it is either not that important to you or if you deem that it is, then that’s the time to start using the right word – “think” or “believe.”
People who know me or read my articles know that I am very pro-life. Would it be appropriate for me to say that I feel (or have a perception) that abortion is wrong? What does that mean? I have no idea. Who cares if I feel a certain way or not? What I can tell you is that I believe from the bottom of my heart that abortion is murder – I believe it and I think it. See the difference? It is much stronger, isn’t it?
So, let’s start saying what we mean – and mean what we say.