the weight of a word

Never mind having the weight of the world on your shoulders, how about having the weight of a word on your conscience?

One word, no matter how short, can decide the meaning of a sentence, the meaning of a phrase, or the fate of a criminal on trial for his life. See! Right there. I associated criminal with the masculine rather than the feminine, and that will help decide how you read this blog entry. Words are tricky bastards, and they can wreak their havoc in many, many, places; changing moments, changing lives, and changing worlds… one need only look at this man to see that.

I do a lot of watching Boston Legal. Well, that’s a lie. I did watch it a lot, and then the season ended sometime in May, much to my dismay. But I’ve seen every single episode of every single season at least twice. Though Boston Legal is a bit of a stretch of a legal drama, the way they use words and language in the court room never fails to: a) crack me up, b) amaze me, c) make me fall a little bit more in love with Alan Shore every single time he’s in court. My love affair with Alan Shore aside, the writing on Boston Legal is spectacular, and the court room rhetoric is both daring and dazzling.

“Shadenfreude. From the German words, Schaden and Freude, damage and joy. It means to take spiteful, malicious delight in the misfortune of others. We used to dismiss this as simply an ugly side of human nature, but it is much, much more than that.”

That’s some fancy rhetoric for ya. The introduction of this information changed the fate of the woman on trial, and she was set free. Sure, it’s a scientific phenomenon, but to use the words so articulately, and to use such adjectives along with it – such that the jury felt terrible for taking joy in the defendant’s pain – that’s good lawyering and crafty wordsmanship. I could give you more examples, but it’s much easier for me to tell you to check out the 3 seasons of the show, because me telling you about it doesn’t do it nearly the justice it deserves. “Objection, your Honor. You can’t preface your second point with “first of all.”

Words may be weighty, but they’re also like weapons. Surely most of you have heard “the pen is mightier than the sword”, something I believe to be undeniably true. You’ve probably also heard the song, “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” by Fall Out Boy: “I am an arms dealer, fitting you with weapons in the form of words”; I love that lyric. Attacking someone with words is much more effective than a physical attack. Words can be remembered, can be spread, can become a personal attack that cuts right into the heart of a matter. Being verbally insulted hurts way more than a punch in the face. Your face can recover in a few days, but your ego takes much longer to recover from the blow of as little an insult as “slut” or “wanker”. The ultimate war is waged with words. Check out what’s happening with Avril Lavigne and the allegations regarding her latest album: the conflict arose from words, is being fought with online blog entries, and will eventually be settled with legal documents/court room rhetoric. And it’s all about the intent to use certain words!

I most certainly do not have to stress the importance of words when it comes to relationships with the people around you. Whether it’s with friends, family, people in your work place or even ourselves, our language changes according to the situation. We use certain words at certain times, and that’s what we stick to. There is a certain code of conduct when it comes to language, and using the wrong word at the wrong time can be a HUGE blow to your reputation. Not to mention, of course, the effect that a little word like love has on a romantic relationship. When do you say it? How do you say it? What if the other person doesn’t say it back? I find that four letter words tend to be the biggest of the lot. Saying antidisestablishmentarianism doesn’t have near the impact that saying a short and simple fuck does.

Your own words are something to celebrate, take pride in, be embarrassed about, or regret. Things you say or write can come back to haunt you, or make you a highly respected member of society. The ability to use a language with skill and ease is, what I believe to be, the most difficult and the most rewarding ability a person might ever possess. That fact keeps me writing, keeps me reading, and asking questions – all the time, about anything and everything that I read or hear. You ARE your words, so you’d better damn well choose them carefully.

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