George Graham

Why Words Matter


It’s not only what we say that matters; it’s also how we say it. Some words are toxic, some are benign.

Here’s an example. If someone says, “blessed are the peacemakers,” you’ll probably nod your head piously in agreement. But call the peacemakers “appeasers” and you’re likely to have a different reaction.

Neville Chamberlain will forever be known as the Great Appeaser. The former British prime minister is pilloried by historians for letting Hitler take  the predominantly German areas in the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.

Hitler double-crossed Chamberlain and invaded Poland anyway, triggering World War II.

I wonder if Chamberlain would be known today as the Great Peacemaker if his concession to Hitler had averted the war.

So I hear warning bells when Trump says talking to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would be “appeasement.”

Trump brags that he is an expert negotiator. But expert negotiators bargain with the carrot as well as the stick.

First, they find out what the other guy wants, and – if that’s unacceptable – they find out what he will take and decide whether they can live with that.  They use threats only if bargaining breaks down.

I hope Trump’s saber rattling is for show, and there’s some kind of contact with the North Koreans taking place behind the scenes .

As Winston Churchill – who was certainly no appeaser – observed:

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

Why Chamberlain was right

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for