I was reading yesterday in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, that if a word doesn’t serve you, if you recoil at the sound of it and it prevents you from truly experiencing whatever the word represents, change the word.
Change the word. Huh. For a writer, that notion is groundbreaking.
People do it all the time without realizing it. What used to be known simply as bread, a basic food staple that helped people survive, is now known as the evil carb. It’s the same item – flour, water, yeast, salt – but now its connotation is terrible and people look at it as a different entity altogether.
I cherish words as if they are each precious gems. The power of a word to say exactly what you mean or to really not get the point across is incredible. I can recount times when I thought the words I used were clear as a northern Michigan lake in early morning but my husband looked at me blankly and said, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
The power of words to effect change or to keep us mired in the same muck is huge. And to think that if you just changed the words, you’d change the game.
When someone can’t find the words – say, my 6-year-old who, much to my dismay, resists the writing process in 1st grade – is it that they aren’t finetuning the experience or they don’t want to be bound by the barriers of certain defined concepts?
Something to think about.
Once a few years ago, my eldest son said something about swear words and he was shocked at their usage. I uttered every single one in consecutive fashion, watching his jaw draw open and his eyes pop.
“They’re just words,” I told him. “Here’s what they mean.” And I dissected each one, word for meaning, word for meaning.
“The reason you shouldn’t use them very often is that it makes you sound not very smart,” I said. “Not classy. But sometimes, a word like this is the perfect and only word, so you use it.”
Simple and easy, he walked away no longer stunned by the existence of off-limits words and no longer enticed to use them.
It’s that easy. Put the language in perspective and it ceases to be as meaningful or important or powerful as we once thought. After all, there’s always another word we can use if the one at hand doesn’t quite suit us.