Words Have Power

People, to the detriment of society, do not think in the same way they once did. They don’t contemplate and formulate philosophies, strategies, hypotheses or treatises. People “Tweet”. In terms of conversational communication or dissemination of information, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, in a world where we have, at our fingertips, access to the sum total of human knowledge, is it truly in our best interest as a culture to lower the level of our discourse? Why is it socially acceptable for me to employ my grasp of the English language in print when to do so in conversation would be seen as arrogant or pompous? I’m not saying that I personally feel any pressure to abjure florid vocabulary. It does, however, concern me that so few people seem interested in utilizing our language to the fullest extent of its potential.

Please, don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that EVERY person in the past thought and spoke like a poet. But certainly, those individuals fortunate enough to be privy to an education, which is to say “the rich”, had a sizable vocabulary. Certainly they made use of it. More often than not their extensive vocabularies spanned multiple languages… even some dead ones! Not everyone is rich these days but, the access we have to the information is unparalleled in human history, and the fact that we don’t make greater use of this opportunity is plangent if not outright shameful! I suspect the reasons why more people don’t take advantage of this access are extremely complex. A variety of socio-economic, cultural, historical and psychological factors that I simply don’t have the time or energy to delve into here and now. Of course, that last statement is perhaps the best explanation available. I’m lazy!

We are all lazy! We are driven, as all mammals are, to achieve the greatest possible efficiency in life. Lest I confuse you, allow me to clarify, as it will undoubtedly be necessary for some, that efficiency is not synonymous with industriousness. In truth, the majority of the bell curve which represents humanity, strives to do as little as possible to maintain a particular level of comfort. Even if the level of comfort requires a great deal of a particular kind of work, we do as little as possible. For example, your favorite musician may spend countless hours practicing and rehearsing and producing albums and performing on tour. However, in order to achieve a degree of efficiency, they collaborate with others. This is something which humans, as a social animal, are adept at doing. Your favorite singer won’t go on tour and play the guitar and the drums and the bass and set up the stage and drive the bus and choreograph the dancers and work the pyrotechnics and… et cetera. Of course, in this example, to do all of those things alone would be impractical to the point of unfeasibility. Still, the point remains the same with language. We do as little as possible, because we are inherently lazy. Of course, I, and likely anyone else who has seen the 1989 classic Dead Poets Society feel that language is an area of endeavor in which, for a particular purpose, laziness simply will not do.

Then again… I don’t talk like this (everything written before this sentence) every time I speak. Every discussion doesn’t merit highfalutin pontification. Talkin’ wit yer’ buddies ‘bout titties don’t require nuthin’ but a understandin’ ‘tween you n’em ‘bout how awesome titties is! <ahem> Of course, from that perspective, we free ourselves from lingual constraints and wander into the realm of more inventive discussion… more inventive language. Shakespeare, if you will permit a touch of hyperbole, invented tons of new words… especially in the arena of sex and sexuality. And invention is not a lazy process.

I suppose the point of all this, if there is one to be made, is that I’d like people… average people… to try harder. Not to master technical jargon but rather, to strive for a more ambitious measure of expression… at least from time to time. Because, I firmly believe that the task of selecting the perfect word for a specific situation, to pause and ponder its rhythm and timbre, to mull its meaning and consider its connotation will make the world a better place. Because, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to re-watch again!

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