We Are How We Speak

The many paradoxes of language fascinate me. There is so often both disparity, as well as a fusion of the nature of meaning, language use, language cognition (the process of thought), and the relationship between language and reality.

I recently watched a performance of My Fair Lady, a story about a street girl who becomes refined by Professor Higgins' character, who on experiment, opts to refine her speech. The story is a silly yet powerful testament to the power of words and the contrasting ideas concerning the influence of them on those who use them.

Confucius sees words as a mechanism that facilitates relationships and friendships: "Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men." Byron however recognizes this force as a channel for ideas and movements: "Words are things, and a small drop if ink, Falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think." Adams, on the other hand, recognizes the danger of such power, "No man means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous". Thoreau heeds to their ability to betray us, "The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement." But then, AA Gill, writer for the London Times, appreciates the immediacy and straightforwardness of words, as they are the one thing that will not betray us: "One of the most satisfying things about words is their black-and-whiteness, the neat, austere simplicity of their process. Letters on a page are so direct, so literal. The connection between writer and reader is intimate, personal and immediate: a moment of thought held, suspended, in a few marks, then reinvigorated. It has remained the same since cuneiform was pressed into wet clay with a reed. Words on a page have no backstage, no sleight of hand, nowhere to hide the workings. Words are what they say they are. You read a sentence and you can see how it was made; you can trace the thought. You know how it’s done."

So, take notice of the words that are coming out of your mouth. Before that all-too-familiar word escapes your lips, think of the millions of times that word has been thrown into the air. Think of the countless contexts, emphasis, and tones it has been given before it has slipped from your tongue. Then, think of the identity which you give it, and which it gives you at that particular moment in time.

@ 2009 by Rachel Lowry. All Rights Reserved {photo vi.sualize.us}

No comments:

Post a Comment