Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Word Journey

Words fascinate me. The power of words even more so. Even as a child, I strongly disagreed with the retort: "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

While I get that this colloquialism was meant to be a lesson of internal toughness, words seem to have a deeper penetrating value than any of us cares to admit. How many phone-calls, drinks, and other "social" outlets (like Facebook) focus on the life-conundrums around a "he said/she said" or the combination of words in a post?

AND, often times these words are just a misunderstanding! A personal example....recently we went through a really hard time and someone kindly offered us some grocery money. Because of a simple word misunderstanding, that person immediately deleted me and that was that. They never even asked for clarity and didn't think to assume the best. The end.

To me, these misunderstandings often lead to really hurtful scenarios that could have been avoided by a simple clarity of the actual words being used. Even physical altercations often times begin with a few well placed word-bombs. And nothing will blow you to bits quicker than harsh words from those closest to your heart.

Screw the sticks and stones - there are many times I would rather you hit me with your fist than with your mouth.

Let's test this. What feelings pop up when you say the following two statements? The same point is being made, but I think you will find one to be quite a bit more hurtful than the other:

1) I hate you for....
2) I hate it when you....

Both of these statements use a pretty strong word, so that already should illicit some response. Both statements lend to some action the offending person may be doing. But, wouldn't you agree that statement #1 feels a little more like a personal attack? Statement #2 has the word "when" separating the person from the action; and that right there seems to allow for more grace. If feels less invasive.

There is a belief, and I am on board, that everything worth experiencing in life requires dark times. It makes seeing the light that much more hopeful. Same with words...they exist on a spectrum of good and bad, dark and light, hurtful and helpful. Some words are recognized by most of us to be "bad", like: hate - while others are subjective, like "marijuana". Not everyone has negative associations with the same words. Not everyone has positive associations with others - like "family".

Now, on the flip side, I have escaped many a troublesome reality at the hands of a well written novel. Hours spent in the life of a fictional character certainly helped make my own life's trials seem very far away. This too is a creation of simple words.

Such pleasure and pain stemming from the simple act of putting words into the world. Wow.

Now that we see how much power lies behind what we say and write, I think a good place to start a word-journey is with the word....well...."WORD"....

Latin: word translates to verbum = language, conversation
*verba dare - to deceive
*per verba - by means of words

Let's break this down.
1) "Verbum" = language or conversation.
This is what I believe words were really meant connect, to share, to communicate. Without words we would all still be grunting and hitting rocks with our clubs to get a point across. Isn't it much easier to say "holy shit. saber-tooth tiger. Run!"

2) "verba dare" - to deceive. Right off the bat of language creation, there was a premeditated mis-use (or rather manipulation) of words to help us gain what we want through deception...."per verba" by means of words. 

So, if even the word, "word" has some questionable connotations from its origin, it is easier to understand why our individual internalization of words can be so subjective and can lead to such emotional turmoil and/or elation.

So, after all this pondering, maybe the real lesson should state: 

"sticks and stones may break my bones, yet words will never leave me."

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