I love you, dear.

I love you, mom.

I love ice cream.

I love the Backstreet Boys.

I love you in that color.

It was a serious worry for philosopher John Stuart Mill. Words need to have their meanings firmly established or else their meanings will drift, to paraphrase the 19th century utilitarians

In lay terms: dog is your pooch, unless you are a young man, in which case a dog is your buddy. Bad is not good, unless you are Michael Jackson.

Of course, this drift is most easily recognized in slang.

The example of the myriad ways one can use love, however, shows how non-slang terms can apply to a whole host of different conditions.

Teenagers, boys in particular, also employ the language of violence with a similar lack of precision.

So Ill kill you or Ill shoot you may be an expression of If you do X, Ill be really upset.

May be.

Or it may mean well, we all now know what it may mean.

That is why teens and the adults who care about them need to address the violence in our language.

Once upon a time, when a playmate stole a basketball from another kid on the playground, Give it back! Or Ill kill you! might have been accepted as playful melodrama.

Today, you are likely to find yourself suspended and subject to a psychological evaluation before you are allowed to return to school.

No doubt, educators go on red alert whenever a school somewhere in the nation experiences violence.

Since the tragic shooting at Santana High School in California, two Baker School District schools have been locked down for the same reason: a person carrying a gun was sighted in the neighborhood.

Police checked the areas, but found nothing amiss.

Carrying a gun in plain sight is not illegal. It could be argued, however, that carrying a gun in plain sight near a school is not necessary, either.

Either way, threatening to hurt someone is illegal, as students at Baker and La Grande high schools found out last week.

At Baker, a student who had made threats on the life of another student was arrested and charged with menacing and disorderly conduct.

At La Grande, a student was cited for disorderly conduct after bringing a list to school. Other students told investigators the boy had compiled the names of students and teachers he did not like.

Either instance could have been adolescent angst working itself out or the precursor to some sort of violence.

Can we fault our schools for taking these verbal threats seriously?

No. We take threats of suicide seriously, and offer zero tolerance for drugs.

We liked how Lt. Vernon Hull of the Baker City Police Department put it.

In todays culture and atmosphere around high schools and schools in general if you make a comment thats inappropriate, people might take you seriously when maybe you didnt intend it that way.

In other words: dont tell someone you love them if you like their shirt.

And dont assume when someone says Ill kill you that they are just upset about you swiping their basketball.