You are reading words. But you know that already. These words come to you live from Toronto, but where do they REALLY come from? Not in the philosophical sense of do words exist just because they come from thought, and if so how do we KNOW they exist and by what mechanisms do we share words, if in fact we actually have proof that we SHARE them in the same way we might share a slice of chocolate layer cake, wine and a bath. No, not in that sense at all. More in the sense of first cause of a word that determined its meaning (at least in the English language) and how meaning is transferred — intact — or translated from one person to another.
I ponder that whole keeping-the-meaning-intact thing a fair bit, since meanings of words change from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye. As a writer and speaker, I know that once words leave me, I actually have little to no control over how another human bean — like you –might take them. Even so, I am deeply interested how people hear the words I use without the sound of my voice, facial expressions and the movement of my body to punctuate, pause and perform them in the way I hear them as I write, read them out loud and mean them to be heard. Can I find out which words people can hear and which ones are hard to hear? Only by using my words.
MEANING of WORDS
The meaning of words morph over time: once upon a not so long ago, sick really did mean ill, killed it was NEVER a good thing to hear, cougars were not apartment dwelling creatures in high heels and ho had something to do with Santa Claus.
Meaning of words is often tacitly agreed to between the users of the words: each generation introduces new words to distinguish itself from the generation that spawned it, at least since the invention of adolescence as a social construct; at least since artistic output was uncollared from the dictates of the church and wealthy patrons.
Then we need to factor in that people give certain words their own private meaning, imbuing those words with meanings and feelings and definitions that are not part of any dictionary.
If I use a word, such as banter, would it mean the same to you? Would it conjure the same sense of fun and lightness that I associate with it? And other words that are less specific but used all the time, with everyone everywhere: friend, love, happy, help, support, care. There are definitions, but what do these words mean off the page and between people?
How is it, exactly, that people actually talk with and hear each other? I think it is not exact but approximate, were I to consider that it is through words alone that we hear what we think we hear. And what we think we hear gives us understanding. Whether it’s what is meant is sometimes questionable. How many people actually check in that they are understanding something as it is meant? How many people use words as weapons? And why?
But I might be putting too fine a point on it. We may be using words faster. Cutting words up and out and creating new, short one. Some of us might be outlaw wordslingers in the Wild Wild West of our very own WWW. Some of us may be wordbandits, wordfools, wordjugglers, wordknights, wordsmiths and wordsaviours. Somehow, in some way, across the miles of and bridges of different meanings and crossed communications, no matter our vocation with words, we use them and manage to understand each other a little bit at a time.
All Hail the good users of good Words!