Power of Words

Awhile back I wrote about how easy it is for me to become lost in words while using a dictionary. My favorite dictionary is at work but it belongs to the U.S. Government. It is so well used that I hope they let me keep it when I retire (which is a ways off). But I digress, for this post is not about dictionaries but the power of words. I find some irony that a dictionary, which is all about words, also includes a definition of “word”:

a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning, is separated from other such units in writing and speech, is composed of one or more morphemes with relative freedom to enter into syntactic constructions, and is either the smallest unit susceptible of independent use or consists of two or three such units combined under certain linking conditions…(and it goes on for a while longer).

As I read this definition from my favorite dictionary, I could not help but imagine this as Mr. Spock explaining to Captain Kirk the meaning of a word.

Recently I created the following picture of words to express my feelings about a life changing event. The initial response I received was that it conveyed a negative message. I considered this a success because that was my aim. Not only in the use of the words, but also the size, color and placement.

wpid-Sketch212203238.jpg I have come across several people who like to use grandiose words when they speak, which can be dangerous with me in the room. For if I hear a word that I don’t understand (which happens with some of the people I work with), I’m not afraid to ask for the meaning. I recall a conversation with a co-work whose reputation as a “big talker” was well-known. In our first meeting he used an acronym I was not familiar with and when I asked what it stood for he responded, “I don’t know, but everyone uses it”. Wrong answer. What little credibility he had was lost and his non-stellar reputation remained intact.

The other end of the spectrum is where a simple “yep” is all that is needed. These are sometimes the best conversations because someone else does all the talk’n which in most cases requires all the think’n.

Words can be used in many powerful ways. They can be used to lead others into a belief that one group of people is superior to another and lead the world into a war. Through the actions of one, words can become the path to fulfilling a dream and to change a society for the better. Words can inspire people to put a man on the moon. Words can also be arranged to create lyrics to songs as well as poetry. They are used to tell stories, both fiction and non-fiction. Our words record history both verbal and written. A single word can express love or create division. Words can be funny or downright insulting. A kind word can encourage and build self-esteem. It can take a thousand words to describe a picture. Some people can be very eloquent and use very few words to express themselves where others can use many words and say nothing. But no matter what language you use, all our words begin in our mind and when spoken are produced by our tongue…and mouth, vocal chords, lungs, various muscles, nerves, etc.

Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity… – James 3:4-6

Words can be very powerful. If used in a haphazard way, relationship can be damaged or destroyed. We all need to choose our words carefully.

2 thoughts on “Power of Words

  1. Patrick, I feel the same about words. The most precise one for the job. Just as the tools you have used in your garage work. Though there are times I feel that my vocabulary is slipping out of my grasp…and then there are times when I read books where the words are all together in new ways and blow the lid off my feeble brain.

    A tale which might add to your thoughts comes from my freshman high school year when our world history teacher told us if we ever asked a word or term, we were to go to the back of the classroom where he had a very large old dictionary, and we were to look up the word, and explain it to the class, as well as the word above and below it. I really loved that retired Army colonel who taught us. It was 1970 and many of my classmates didn’t like him. However, his mission was clear, he truly wanted to teach us and have us master information. And that, is my ultimate weakness–the getting of wisdom. (Proverbs 16:16 and 4:7).


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