the value of your vocabulary

words have meaning. they have value. they are a commodity, an investment… and for some, an asset. you can trade them, save them, or collect them. you can share them, throw them and overuse them. they can uplift and destroy. words can transcend “space and time” causing us to reflect.. and to dream. it is WHAT you say and it is HOW you say it. but what is IT, exactly? that gives a word it’s value?? can a word gain literary weight?? how do they become obsolete or empty?

words and language are truly a gift from God. my research led me to the Linguisitic Society of America who states there are approximately 6,909 catalogued languages. does that boggle your mind? i can’t even find a clear explanation on the known count of WORDS in each of those languages. but i suspect that number is mind-boggling — squared by infinity. the assimilation of language is nothing shy of a miracle. by six months old, most children have an understanding of about six hundred words. they learn those words from the environment: household, childcare, school, social and family interactions. and again i ask, where does the vaaalue of those words come from?

the meaning and understanding of vocabulary is paramount to self expression and productive communication. both of which are required to be a functioning member of society. we don’t all use words to express ourselves, but it is an understanding of the word (or a word) that brings about a feeling or emotion that can be presented or represented through alternate media. for instance, “pictures say a thousand words” (or more). think of one of your favorite photos. what does it say to you? can you even describe it? it’s the trying — the putting together of the words and the gestures, expressions and tones that provides others with your feeling. your sentiment. and, sometimes… there just aren’t enough words to describe something. none of the words are right. they don’t .. quite.. fit. considering the number of languages and the number of words, you would think that there would be room to express what you think, see and feel. but alas, some feelings are beyond our comprehension and understanding and therefore — outside of our ability to explain them.

i think our words take on meaning and value when we relate to them. and as we grow and learn, their value can shift and mutate. i think a key example in this argument is sarcasm. oh, the beloved sarcasm. the crisp sound of enthusiasm presented against the backdrop of a tone or face doing anything but being enthused. sarcasm is the first to mislead and the first to be offended at miscommunication. it is easy to spot and hard to ignore. do we act on the sarcasm or the implication provided by the sarcasm? how do we know which instance is correct? i’ll tell ya what i think… i think that sarcasm’s influence and understanding is directly related to whom is providing the sarcasm and how well we know or relate to them – directly. someone random could slip you some sarcasm behind a fake smile and phony tone but you wouldn’t even consider taking the same from a close friend.

the same is true for the choice of word and how the word is communicated. no matter what is said, nothing beats face-to-face communication. phone calls are widely accepted because we live in a huge world, and we’re not always in the same place at the same time. now, technology is closing the gap between us and our loved ones. we can do everything shy of actually tasting the dinner that they made for our romantic skype cyber first date pre date date. we can see friends and family and share in events and memories with the blink of an eye. we are closer, and sadly, we are father apart. our mode of communication is phenomenal, but our methods lack personalization and true emotion. even with emoticons 🙂

i’m a “touchy feely” kinda gal. i hug and love all of my friends, their kids, their friends’s kids…:D . i kiss all the babies and pet all the pets. i try to remind my friends, often, of how much i love and appreciate them. but for the life of me, i cannot stand when i say “i love you” and i get back “i luv you”… you what? luv? looovre? you luuuuuuuuuuv me? what’s luuuuuvvv? is that LIKE love, but different?? minor technicality, but one i just can’t respect. all in all i’m ok with slang, acronyms, text jargon, etc., but it is definitely impeding on language and communication. text communication is simple and easy — to me. i, however, still use full words and sentences versus the many shortcuts and abbreviations that can accelerate and amplify any miscommunication.


on that same note, i’m a much better writer than speaker and i have been known (accused) of hiding behind my words. i don’t often condemn anyone face-to-face, but i’ll rip you a new one – via text, if you’ve earned it. double standard? yeah, i know. i’m an expressive person. i communicate in many ways and often. i don’t find any one way more suitable than another. i think situations and conversations have to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

sometimes words are better when they’ve had a chance to simmer. writing gives me a chance to think and consider my words, thoughtfully. i can compose a paragraph and implore a feeling in my reader — the receiver. they say actions speak louder than words, but i don’t think that’s always the case. with so many ways to express ourselves, and so many ways to share it… the best proven way to get your point across is to state so. there are far too many words (in the english language) to leave anyone guessing at what you’re saying. all in all, the number of words, languages, feelings, sentiments, and emotions, combined should provide any and everyone with an equally vast array of possibilities to express themselves in a clear and precise manner.

our words needn’t be harsh, brash, profane, loud or abusive to be heard. it is not necessary to use “very” and “love” repeatedly and over-abundantly to express our emotions. for example “very”:

i’m very upset. i’m very hungry. i’m very much in love.

There are actual words, whole individual words, that can express these statements In a more eloquent and sophisticated manner. the same goes for “love”:

i love candy. i love movies. i love you.

this is where the relationship between the giver and receiver really comes into play and this is where i believe words develop their true meaning. a word such as “love” should truly be limited to loving situations. when you state that you “love” everything around you, including inanimate objects, you devalue the word. making it’s true meaning of loving another person very hard to perceive.

how can you looooove me? if you also love toast? do you love me as much as you love toast? do you love me more than toast? do you love anything more than you love me? or toast?

one of my favorite statements about words comes from eminem’s  “Sing for the Moment”:

“But everybody just feels like they can relate
I guess words are a muhfuh, they can be great
Or they can degrade, or even worse, they can teach hate
It’s like these kids hang on every single statement we make”

it is best to “think before you speak”. not just so you don’t offend or hurt, but so that you can fully expressive yourself. ensure that you choose your words and that the words you are using have value — both to you and your receiver. subscribe to a “word a day” from any one of the many sites that will freely enrich your vocabulary. solicit and use a thesaurus to get away from cliche expressions and mundane apathetic quips. if and when you do this, you assure your listener that what you are saying is heartfelt. it’s real and it’s as valuable and worthy as an action. carefully chosen words are one of your most valuable possessions. they live on, so be sure to use them wisely.

oh… one more thing. sometimes (never with me) “less is more”. ;D

i don’t love it, i like it a lot

i took a humanities class once and a classmate made the statement “i love blank” (it doesn’t matter what word you use instead of blank, as long as it’s not a person). she didn’t mean that she loved it but that she liked it a lot. another student in that class (born and raised in another country) was astounded and made the statement:

“americans and “love”. you guys “love” everything when in fact you don’t. you like it a lot. you over-use the word “love” and therefore it has no meaning. “love” describes your feeling for another. not how much you like chocolate cake. americans need to use vocabulary.”

i was totally floored. she was right. and i was soooooooooo guilty of this slaughtering of such a phenomenal word. it made me think. hard. i was baffled by how much i used the word “love” to describe my affinity for items of interest.

“i love strawberries.”

“i love candy.”

“i love Outkast.”

what a verbal faux pas. and i have always considered myself word savvy. i can express myself well and i have a medium-sized vocabulary, but i tend to stick with “love”, and using profanity to express my levels of love. when prompted to express how much i actually love strawberries, my response used to be:

“i %&*@$#& love strawberries, like so &@$^*$# much.”

i know, poor form, right? bravo! for being crude. perhaps, a metaphor would have worked better. something like:

“i love strawberries the way babies love milk.”

still overusing the word, which is the opposite of what i am trying to accomplish. the fact of the matter is that the statement should be:

“i really like strawberries. in fact, i consider them my favorite fruit.”

it expresses my adoration and even expresses a level of comparison. yes, i think this is better. i took that class about thirteen years ago and i still struggle with not liking something a *&@%$#& lot. i need to do better. and considering that my down time is spent either reading with my son, blogging, words with friending or wordfeuding, i am really going to have to do better. yes, better BETTER! i will back that up with the following:

*right hand raised* i vow to use my vocabulary for all that it is worth. i solemnly swear to like things that should be liked and love people…only. i hereby promise to try my very hardest (and that is really hard) to eliminate profanity and the like from said vocabulary in an attempt to a) be a better parent and b) to put that broader vocabulary to use. yes, these things i will do. i’m gonna have to find my thesaurus.