Thursday, 30 July 2009

The weight of words

In high school, the worst class I ever had was philosophy. It was boring, it made no sense and I couldn't see how it was going to help me in my future life and career. I had no interest in listening to what the teacher was saying until we started the chapter about the language.

It was the fist time I listened because it actually made sense. To sum it up, it said that the words cannot exactly express our feelings as they are just a vehicle of our thoughts. In other words, when you love someone; all the emotion, the fire burning inside of you, the feelings, the sacrifices that you are ready to make are simply expressed by one simple small four-letter word: love.

It seems our brain uses some sort of a funnel to canalize all of our emotions and feelings in simple words. Of course there is no other way to do it but I do feel frustrated sometimes as the word that I am using does show what I exactly mean. We can see that in insults; which is why it is very useful to speak several languages. I like to insult in Arabic because I feel the words used express exactly the intensity of my anger. But this canalization is also an advantage because it allows us to avoid any misunderstanding as the words are sharp, clear, simple and common to all.

Nevertheless, I feel that the use of the words has been significantly distorted in our modern society, and that annoys me. People nowadays have to weigh everything they say before they speak. People tend to look so deep in the words and interpret things that might not be true. We have reached this point today because writers, critics, journalists, leaders, etc. use nuances and play on words all the time in order to tell their message in a very smooth, implicit way.

What happened to saying things the way they are? Why do I need to read my SMS or e-mail two or three times before I send it in order to make sure that I didn't imply anything that I didn't mean. How about we stop looking deep down in the meanings of the words and just say what we need to say and hear what we're meant to hear without any unwanted interpretation?

These things are conflict starters and we need to stop it. Humans invented the language to make our lives easier and to clearly state what is in our mind. Let's not abuse that privilege and mean what we say.


  1. I absolutely agree, words limit our thoughts, but I was wondering which one came first, thoughts before language or language before thoughts? Boita

  2. I totally agree. I get angry when I just cant say what I want to say BUT... there are times we need to think before we speak and choose our words carefully. For example, my parents who grew up in a completely different generation said certain words or phrases that were acceptable then but it's wrong to say them now. However, I grew up listening to their words, and repeating what they said... only to learn for myself that I cant say those things now. When I try to explain to my father that you cant say, nigger and poofter... he doesn't understand. He says he doesnt mean to be rude, it's just the words he has always used and he is comfortable with them.

  3. I absolutely agree and please allow me to add that silence sometimes help us to express ourselves better. Body language too.