The older I get the more I have noticed that Language is in many ways a hinderance to humanity. I remember being a kid and saying a word over and over until it didn’t even sound like a real word. This exercise made me question Who decides words? Who said that one is one not two? Who said up was up an not down? I then started to wonder what if everything I knew as language was backwards. What if what we know as red was actually called green? This intrigued me.

As I reached what some would call Adulthood I noticed another thing about Language, Tone. I had long heard the phase It’s not what you say but how you say it. As an adolescent I hated the phrase. To me I delivered words of rebellion in the same way I delivered words in usual conversation. Being an adult and listening to people young and old I started to understand this idea of tone. Somehow two people could say the same exact thing but it could be received in completely conflicting ways. Ah the tone I would think to myself. How was I unable to hear it before? Did I simply choose not to hear it or was I incapables at the time? All I know is I hear it now and it puzzles me constantly. Not only do we have hundreds of languages but we also have hundreds of tones those languages can be delivered in.

This is where language can become a hinderance. It is very hard for people to properly communicate their feelings with such a wide variety of options to convey them. Human perception also makes this difficult because even when we find the right words to say, the person/people receiving this message may percieve a tone in the way the person delivered the words. This may in turn lead to a long discussion explaining why what you said was not what you meant. I often find that words can never describe what we are truly feeling or trying to communicate.

I think it’s funny that there is so many words for one thing. We call them synonyms but what they really are is useless. Why do we need twenty words for beautiful? Do we really need three ways to say to/too/two or there/they’re/their? Are these necessities of language or excesses? Would language crumble if these ceased to exist?

Sometimes silence is the easiest way to communicate, odd as that sounds. At least that’s what I’ve found. In the words of the great Joss Whedon “When people stop talking, they start communicating.” (if you haven’t seen the silent episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Hush” I recommend you watch it!)

  1. James Eberts says:

    Oh my! You have tapped into a world that I can spend hours discussing. Being a former educator and working on this and various other aspects of communication regularly with students, parents, and even my colleagues, I have derived a great respect for language, words and how to better communicate. You made some stark and profound points in this blog. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Your post sparked a memory of one of my TEFL classes in Madrid. I read an article that stated something like 88 percent (or thereabouts) of our communication is non-verbal. They debated against this profusely. It was a fun debate, but it highlights a point. Language is important to people, but somehow it seems ‘overused’ verbally. My best friends are those whom I can sit comfortably with in silence, without having to speak all the time, we notice our non-verbal cues and find comfort in these, and they are the friends I connect with the most. Through the non-verbal we can master the verbal, I feel.

  3. […] Maria Grujicic Thanks for reading and comments are welcome! Click here to take you to the blogger’s […]

  4. Ruwan Rajapakse says:

    Nice… tone makes every difference in the world… and we must be conscious of it when we speak.

  5. you should read pensees by pascal because of your interest in philosophy i think you would dig it. I like what you are getting at here, but i have to say i am a lover of words. I like that there are 20 ways of saying beautiful and i would have to think that new words are created when there are no words to describe something. I know when i see something truly beautiful, i feel i need another word to describe it at times, hence why there are so many words for beautiful haha. I don’t know. didn’t really think about it til now. interesting thoughts

  6. “I often find that words can never describe what we are truly feeling or trying to communicate.”

    isn’t this the essence of the struggle as a writer? I feel like it is close to the essence of our struggles as human beings as well

  7. Reblogged this on wordsofhonestunwisdom and commented:

    I recently began reading 1984 by George Orwell and was struck by this line “It’s a beautiful thing , the destruction of words.”
    For those of you who are not familiar with the novel it is about a Dystopian society in which the entire population is under surveillance 24/7 and the language is continually broken down to the bare minimum needed to communicate (newspeak). By destroying words the government (Big Brother) is able to control how people think, understand and interact with each other.
    After reading that line I instantly remembered writing this blog (watch your language) and I was slightly shocked at myself! There IS a reason we have synonyms they are not useless (what was I thinking?!). I think sometimes I am frustrated with people using words improperly and in inappropriate ways which can lead to miscommunication. I still however do believe that silence is a virtue, and that when we a truly silent we can hear what is most important!
    Peace and Love

  8. jjhiii24 says:

    Great Questions! I think there are answers for them, though. My recommendation is a book by Steven Pinker called, “The Language Instinct,” which gives a detailed account of the development of language in human cultures, and while it is a bit technical at times, it has much to say about the origins and meaning of language.

    On my blog, I wrote a post called, “The Voice of Thought,” which might give you a starting place for thinking about language.

    Great Post!….John H.

  9. Somewhere it was said that words are merely a pointing finger. You can stare at the finger or see what it is pointing at. I figure it is usually a means to a “sense”. The only thing that troubled me about that was the fact that a pointing finger is much easier to interpret, which you made clear here. Do you think people, at times, believe they understand something to its fullest potential just because they know the words well? Kind of like an overused phrase that slowly loses its power to guide the mind to the sense it was pointing at.
    “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Albert Einstein

  10. N Filbert says:

    “Words are the things that get us where we want to go and prevent us from getting there”
    Sam Beckett (roughly paraphrased) Agreement.

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