Words, words, words

January 23, 2013 at 10:09 am (Uncategorized)

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” –C.S. Lewis


It is no secret to those who know me that I adore the English language with all its subtleties and double meanings. English may not have the depth to always express complex emotions concisely, but the fact that it has zero compulsion about stealing from other languages means that if a word is needed it can be found. Puns are especially appealing to me. For whatever reason I find excellent wordplay to be the cleverest form of humor.

Language is such an interesting subject–we talk and talk and rarely think about why we say what we say or how we say it. Thoughtless speech can cut us to our cores, where a well placed word or two can brighten our entire perspective on life. Something that I was taught early on doing theatre and that has stuck with me is the concept of speaking only when you can improve on silence. The idea is that you should have motivation for the words you say on stage; you aren’t saying them just to say them but because you have an objective through those words–whether you are seeking love, to compel, or anything else. It’s a variation on what your mother told you growing up–if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I believe that everything you say should have an element of constructiveness in it–saying things merely to be cruel is a terrible use of words–but I might replace nice with necessary. Say the things that you need to say. I think that oftentimes we do not, and it gets us into all kinds of trouble. Choosing the correct words at the correct times can be quite difficult. It’s a process, but a worthwhile one I would argue.

Words really are special things–they create perception, and are the physical and aural forms of the thoughts in our minds. Words have power. There are Native Americans who believe that the world must be sung into being every morning; the correct words must be said every day for the sun to continue rising and the world to continue being. The idea isn’t limited to Native Americans, though. John 1:1–“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

People conceived to have ideas, way back in the reaches of time. Those ideas were formless, existing in the mind. Eventually those ideas became symbols and words. Words have power because ideas have power. The word is with and is god. Our thoughts and words are expressions of our shared humanity, and that is beautiful. I don’t know if the world truly has to be sung into existence each morning, but in a way we do it ourselves regardless.


“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” -The Buddha


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