Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Words

I love this creative movie poster
How do words affect us in the ways they do? Because really, the same words, phrased and delivered in exactly the same way might affect ten people in ten different ways. This is utterly fascinating to me. Words are powerful. And yet, even with how regularly the media (for example) uses so swiftly, shrewdly, and irresponsibly words that could mark the destruction of someone’s life and/or privacy (and we believe them!), we still refuse to accept just how powerful words can be.

Part of this phenomenon – in my mind, at least – can be traced back to the fact that most of modern America (and when I say this, I mean Americans born in the last three to four decades; so yes, I'm including myself in this) has a very limited knowledge of the words they are actually using on a daily basis. Most people I know joke about how they string together useless words (mostly slang) that no one is even listening to, but still wonder at and complain about being misunderstood.

This is mind-boggling to me.  I, the incessant reader, can’t comprehend the willingness with which those around me accept their inadequate vocabulary as “normal”; or, worse yet, the accepted highest endeavor. I also don’t know many people who take the time to research anything anymore (which would be a productive way to expand one's vocabulary), whether it’s about health, science, history or entertainment. You name it. The first person that spouts some story on the news, Twitter, or Facebook is accepted as the truth, which is then altered, passed around, and blown out of proportion like some disgusting real-world version of telephone.

Here is a well-known fact of human nature: people hear and see what they want to; rarely what is actually there, staring them in the face.

I know, I’ve meandered slightly off-topic, but the truth is that this habit our society has started of passing along lies as truth seems to me to have been birthed from our decreasing knowledge and continued misuse of our day to day language. Watching The Words this last weekend really got me thinking about words and how we use them.

The Words really is not centered on this subject, but it plays subtly in the background. You can’t talk about the publishing industry now without the subject of language misuse (and just plain bad writing running rampant) coming up. The Words focuses on what it means to steal someone else’s words and label them as your own. And to gain admiration and respect from your readers based off of this deceit. How do you live with a lie of that magnitude? You could never make it right without ruining the beauty and integrity those words started out with. It would taint the message. That, to me, was the beauty of the story: what would you be willing to sacrifice as an author of any kind if your words were stolen from you? Would you be willing to allow someone to keep the credit for your work in order to save its message? It sounds like a hard decision to make. But then, it would be harder (and more painful) still to live with the knowledge that the thing everyone loves so much was not your creation.

Needless to say, this was an emotional, thought-provoking film and I would highly recommend it. In no way do I mean this post to be completely negative. I only hope it gets you thinking about how you use words and the message you’re trying to convey to people with them.

P.S. I also realize I’m not the best when it comes to putting what I want to say into words. And, at the age of 28, I obviously do not have a fully formed vocabulary yet. But I’m working on it, and that’s all we can really do.

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