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What is the origin of the "sticks and stones" quote?

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Quick Answer

The earliest citation of this adage can be found in "The Christian Recorder," which was produced in March 1862 as a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The phrase was presented as such: "Remember the old adage, 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.' True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions."

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Because this phrase was referred to as an "old adage," even at its first publication, there is evidence that the phrase may have existed long before it was first printed. The "Sticks and Stones" phrase persuades the victim of name-calling to ignore his attackers and to refrain from physical retaliation. It encourages the victim to remain friendly and calm and to not escalate the situation further.

Despite what this phrase may suggest, modern studies show that verbal abuse can actually have long-lasting psychological effects, which may sometimes manifest in physical ways. Wounding words do not necessarily have to come exclusively from bullies, as they can also come from friends, family members and loved ones, according to Psychology Today. Just like there is no single defining type of verbal abuse, there is no single defining stereotype of a verbal abuser.

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