What you say, what you are, and what you do

I have been thinking about the power of words, how our use of them communicates who we are to others, and how easy it is to say things we don’t mean to say.

In a number of belief systems a person’s given name is held close and used only by a small circle of trusted friends and family because it is believed that a person’s given name has a special power over them. In a number of belief systems certain words, or combinations of words, are believed to raise awareness of deities and influence the world of the person speaking them. Then, of course, there are all manner of sayings: “He is a man of his word.” “Sticks and stones can break you bones, but words can never hurt you.” “Use your words.” This last one often said to emotional, frustrated, or teary eyed children.

A person who uses many flowery words loquaciously is thought to be grand and inspiring, while a person who uses only a few words is assumed to be reserved or stingy. One person can say concisely and clearly, with a few powerful and direct words, what a different person might say using a great many less powerful and less direct words, words that “beat around the bush.”

Someone can be a man of his words, but never really use any words that make a commitment one way or the other. And the pain from a broken bone often goes away completely, but words that formed insults can cause a pain that lingers for years. Sometimes grand, inspiring, and loquacious people don’t have much to offer when they are not talking, while someone who uses less words can be far more present when action needs to be taken.

Then again, less powerful words that beat around the bush can be strung together in such a way that the when the speaker finally makes their point the listener is broadsided by the strength of the meaning, while a few powerful and direct words can be ignored.

And sometimes, here’s the tricky thing, we hear words and our rational brain knows they are lies, but the delivery of the words makes them so believable that our emotional brain insists on a truth we know is not there, and we believe, like in advertising…

Then there are the many plays on words, most of which are humorous. But I like a less humorous one from the 80’s (or maybe 70’s) rap group Melle Mel & The Furious Five, in a song about how the world works. “There is no Justice, Just us.” Just us and our words.

Anyway I’m not sure where to go with this… it’s just a lot of words. But the Tom Tom Club wrote a great song about it: http://www.lyricsmania.com/wordy_rapping_hood_lyrics_chicks_on_speed.html

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