Words are powerful. They have the power to change perceptions, forge relationships and write the lines of history.
A Pittsburgh high school student learned that words also have the power to shut down his school, or rather, one word: b-ball.
According to CBS, the Pittsburgh student was called by a receptionist to confirm an appointment for that day. When she heard his voicemail recording, she panicked and alerted the police.
The student was singing the iconic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, but the line “Shootin’ b-ball outside of the school” did not translate to the receptionist. She thought he said “Shooting people.”
This led to a countywide school lockdown. No one was hurt and it was later determined to be a misunderstanding.
However, it makes you think: How do people understand the words you say, Tweet and text? For a student in Pittsburgh, the miscommunication was rooted in a generational gap (ask anyone born in the ’90s what “West Philadelphia” means to them and you’ll likely get well-intentioned rendition of the sitcom theme song).
As a public relations practitioner, what does this case of “telephone” say about communication as a whole?