Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Power Of Words

photo by Windy Angels
I've been thinking about words lately. Powerful little creatures, words. I think words are among the most misused of our resources. We use too many of them, we use the wrong ones, we use them carelessly. It's a shame. Here are some things I've noticed about words recently:
  • Excuses and explanations. I have a friend who does not make excuses. She does not seem to have a need for explaining herself. Last week she and I were both part of a group that had been asked to provide one volunteer for an ongoing job. Nobody wanted to do it. We all provided reasons for why we could not take the job - except this friend. She just said, "No" and left it at that. She and I serve on another team together. We had a meeting recently. When asked if she would be able to attend, she said, "Yes, but I have to leave at 8:00." No explanation as to why. She just had to leave at 8:00. The end. I love that. I love that she doesn't try to explain herself. She just gives her answer and leaves it at that. No outs. No maybes. Her word is true, and she doesn't need to explain her reasons to anybody. This is not just true of her "no", either. If she says, "Yes", then you can just know that she means it. She'll be where she says she'll be, she'll do what she says she'll do. She doesn't need to justify her decisions. It's refreshing.
  • Lyrics. Trying to describe a song when one does not know the lyrics is difficult, somewhat pointless, and frustrating to both parties. My sister recently tried to describe a song to me. She thought that I would like it, since I am the mother of a young child and am expecting another child soon. But she didn't know the name of the artist or the song, and she couldn't remember the lyrics or melody. These are all key components of songs. She said, "It's something about golden ringlets cute they are when they're fast they grow up. It's so sweet!" I'm sure the song is lovely and touching, but I simply couldn't relate to my sister's level of emotion when discussing the song, because - well, I'll admit, just the phrase "golden ringlets" doesn't leave me in a state of great emotional vulnerability. So there we were, she so excited and emotional about the song, and all I could say was, "Huh. That sounds nice."
  • Language development. My daughter brought a crafted foam frog home from church today, the kind of preschool craft that hangs over a doorknob. I asked her what her frog's name was. She said it was George Eastman. Then she corrected herself and said the frog's name was George Eastfrog. He is not a man, you see, but a frog, so he couldn't have the name Eastman.
  • Meaning. Have you ever noticed how often we say things that we don't mean? I'm starving. That is the ugliest thing I've ever seen. I hate this computer. We don't really speak plainly. Plain speech, like a true and simple "yes" or "no", is refreshing. One thing I catch myself saying frequently is, "I can't believe..." I can't believe how big she's getting. I can't believe we graduated so long ago. I can't believe how many times that telemarketer has called. Not true. I can believe all those things. When I am intentional about my speech, I try to say, "I can hardly believe..." or "It is hard to believe..." I think this implies that belief is still attainable, but that the object of belief has somehow amazed me or caused me to reflect upon the quick passage of time.

Speaking of the power of words, I'm hearing a plaintive "Mom-mYYYYYYY!" from the other room, so I had better respond to it.

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