Without a doubt, words are our best tool for expression and communication. They can also be a great deal of fun, and, can be downright confusing.
Let me try to put my thoughts into words:
Words! What is in a word?
“My kingdom for a word! A horse it may be but a horse is only a word that by any other name is still a word.”
“Words declare wars, they garner peace.”
“Words can be hurtful, they can be playful.”
“Words describe words as in spiteful words, hurtful words, insightful words.”
“We can have a war of words, crosswords or: them’s fightin words.”
“Words can be theatrical: we can have a play on words.”
“Word is law. It is the word.”
“Words are prophetic. Words can be the gospel truth. So sayeth the word of the Lord”
“Words inspire, they transpire”
“Words transcribe: you have my word on that.”
“Failing that, can I have a word with you?”
“Words are not enough.” That’s why we have lawyers.
“Words can be despotic, or chaotic.”
“A single word can inspire poetry, lyricism:”
Lennon and McCartney understood words to such an extent that they had a song with two words called “The Word” to describe a single word.” An extract:
“Say the word and you’ll be free
Say the word and be like me.
Say the word I’m thinking of.
Have you heard the word is love” (Lennon and McCartney; Rubber Soul, (1965)
“Ah yes, LOVE.” The English language’s most poignant and, perhaps, most dangerous word.
When a few words are taken together, we have a phrase. And when a couple of phrases are linked together we have, in a word, a “sentence.” And when a group of sentences are grouped together we have, in another word, a “paragraph.” And, to describe or summarize a paragraph, we can go right back to the beginning of this word-train of thought – to “paraphrase!”
We can combine words to make quotable quotes: some profound, some sublime, some simplistic, some stupidly clear:
“To be or not to be – that is the question.” That may be but on Jeopardy it is the answer!
“If things are good in moderation then they must be great in excess.” My favourite.
“If something is worth doing, then it is worth overdoing.” My other favourite.
“Baseball is 100% physical. The rest is mental.” (adapted from Berra).
“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. A woman does what she wants.”
“A consultant is someone who is adept at making the simple… complex.”
“The problem with theory is that it’s just not practical enough!”
“A wise fool is an oxy moron.”
“Those lefties are so darn righteous!”
“She was at a loss for words.”
“Words cannot describe what she said.” Huh?
Yet words are not enough when communicating. Context and understanding are crucial. Without context confusion arises to the point of ridiculousness. Let me try to illustrate:
Take the word “nit.” The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines “nit” as a stupid person, a louse. Then add the letter “k” before the “n” and you have “knit.” Yet the word “nit” from the word “knit” is a whole different kettle of fish. And what is that anyway: a kettle of fish?
Now, let’s take the word “wit:” defined as someone with a sharp sense of humour, a player of words perhaps. As in “that man possesses wit. He has a sharp mind.” But then add the letter “t” before the “w” and you have “twit.” Or, combine the word “nit” with the word “wit” and you have a “nitwit.” But “nit” and “twit” together doesn’t sound quite right – “nit-twit?”
Nonetheless, given that a “nit” is already defined as a stupid person, and “wit” is someone who has a sharp mind, then “nitwit” defiles all logic in a descriptive sense except perhaps to define someone who possesses a stupid “wit” – which is in itself oxymoronic. But “dimwit” already has that locked up. Yet what is really frustrating about the undercurrent of this word is that “dimwit” is the opposite of someone who has a sharp “wit.” So, that being the case, let’s call him or her a “blunt-sharp” person!
To make matters worse a “twit” could be someone who has a sharp “wit,” and is still a “nitwit” or a “dimwit.” So why can’t we call him or her a nit-twit? Or a “dim-twit”? Confused? I am. The bottom line is that “nitwit” or “dimwit” sounds better. The other bottom line is that English words are just downright confusing without context and a shared understanding of the contextual environment we are communicating in.
Who ever thought that a single word, like “please”, in context, could be so humorous? Yet Henny Youngman made a comedic career out of four simple words: “Take my wife….. please” (Youngman). Yes, the word “timing” says it all.
Words can mean different things to many different people. It is how we shape them, construct them, and construe them that are key to our success in using them. Timing may be one thing but context is everything.
Finally, we do not have to worry about the size of our vocabulary in how we use words. Hemingway is said to have had a very limited working vocabulary. Yet, like a sculptor working his clay, Hemmingway formed, molded, shaped and plied his words into words – of art! And like any art form, it was no easy matter. As Mark Twain once remarked: “Brevity takes longer.”
And what is my favourite word? – “Imagine.” Not the song but the word. I hate the song.: an anarchist’s anthem.
Imagine that! Imagine the possibilities in that word.
Take my word for it. You’ll be surprised at how much fun words can be. You’ll be truly amazed at your wordiness.
You have my word on it.