I've had two important experiences with words in less than a week.
The first one was when I was trying to explain the story line of a book I recently read and liked. It was Ann Patchet's Run, and tells a complex story about three families whose lives intersect in powerful ways through adoption. In trying to describe it to a few friends I used the terms birth mother, adoptive parents, adopted children, etc. But these are issues I am not in the practice of discussing, so I fumbled at one point and used the term "real" to distinguish the biological child. Of course, I didn't mean that the other children were not "real" or that the relationships were determined by biology. One of the women in the group has an adopted child - and she was on me fast! I felt lousy for the rest of the afternoon and tried to shake it off. As someone who tries to be sensitive to other people's feelings, I felt badly that I had messed up here - that someone's feelings could have been hurt by my careless use of words. That was the unpleasant example of how important the words are that we use - a place where I need to work harder.