If words have no meaning, we wouldn’t need them. And if we didn’t need words, we wouldn’t need an alphabet. We wouldn’t need a language or grammar and syntax or the fields of Semiotics or Linguistics. We couldn’t hurt each other by the things we couldn’t say. We couldn’t damage kids with words or tone of voice. We wouldn’t have a nonsensical QWERTY keyboard. We wouldn’t need learn to read. We wouldn’t have books. We wouldn’t have song lyrics. We wouldn’t have disagreements over who said what, when or how it was said. Our left brain development would be different. We’d be different.
If words have no meaning, there would be no wedding vows, no promises, no love letters. There wouldn’t be I love you on little notes taped in the shower, stuck on the pillow or the espresso maker. There’d be no reading stories out loud to each other in bed at night, no shared jokes about semantics and mispronunciations. There’d be no notes to the dog walker. No long contracts with confining fine print to sign. There’d be no telephone calls to friends, no words of comfort late at night, no cheerful hello from the people at the cafe. There’d be no talking theatre or talking movies and there’d certainly be no movie quotes. There’d be no billboards or signs with words, no newspapers, no junk mail, no telemarketers, no preachers, no sermons, no political speeches.
If words have no meaning, there wouldn’t be IMs or emails or post cards or birthday cards or nasty comments or cyberbullying. There wouldn’t be motivational speakers or lifestyle coaches. There wouldn’t be any pontificating know-it-alls or party bores. There wouldn’t be mindless people talking on their cellphones, bumping into other people on the street, or yakking away about stupid vapid stuff at the market and on the subway or in the restaurant subjecting the rest of us to more and more stupidity. There wouldn’t be widespread cheating on exams in high schools or universities. There wouldn’t be menus or love letters or wishes upon a star or prayers and sacred texts or whispers or instruction booklets or jet printers or voice mail.
If words have no meaning there wouldn’t be a business built on the use of affirmations. We wouldn’t talk to ourself or share our troubles: we wouldn’t have exclamations of Aha! or words to push us through challenging times. We wouldn’t use words to support our narcissistic disorder or our internalized self-loathing or replay echoes from long ago of taunting kids telling us “how retarded” (sic) we are. We couldn’t use that inner voice to conjure up a little dose of courage or feed delusions of grandeur, self-righteousness and martyrdom or to tell potential employers how good we are or a loved one how lucky they are to have us. We wouldn’t need marketing or PR or crisis management or journalists.
If words have no meaning poets have no place, writers have no calling, dictionaries need no shelves. There’d be no need for libraries, booksellers, editors, fact checkers or storytellers. No creation stories shared around campfires. No fables, no myths, no fairy tales, no radio shows, no reporting stupid people saying stupid things, of stupid people writing stupid things.
If words have no meaning, there’s nothing that anyone, anywhere has to say about anything, about anyone, anytime for any reason, for ever and ever because there wouldn’t be the words to think it all. Which would make the world a much quieter place, with people practising charades or sharing pictures and glyphs and uttering gutteral noises, and thumping on chests and jumping up and down which might mean, in that brave new world of no words, Look at me! Look at me!
If words have no meaning, people couldn’t get upset at other people saying stupid things because stupid things could not be said which means there’d be no verbal abuse, no hate graffiti, no hate talk and no hate literature against any group of people.
If only. But that’s me dreaming in technicolour.
It’s no secret that I’m semantically sensitive, fascinated by the power of words, the effects of the power of words between people, the use and misuse of words in all of their manifestations, the use and place of words in relationships, particularly the relationship between writers and readers.
Writers and readers care about words. They care about the stories carried in the arms of words, the images reflected in the mirrors of words, the dreams sparked into imagination through the fuel of words, the tears pouring out of the irrigation channels of words, the mountains created by the piles of words, the winners and losers plucked from the race by the placement of word after word after word.
In our world of new programs and platforms for sharing with everyone all the stuff that used to stay safely tucked away in our head, we are now all readers and we are all writers, using the words of our language. And if some words to some people have no meaning then perhaps no words can have meaning, and if no words can have meaning, then civilization as we know it is doomed because everything is based on a word, including the Beginning, remember?
No matter the warping or degree of obfuscation or ignorance on the part of users, words convey meaning and what’s so wonderful about words is that they show and tell and prove everything, including how nonsensical some of us can be, how truth and reality are in the eye of the beholder, how each are carefully crafted in ways large and small by people to uphold a view of self and the world that does not exist anywhere except in mind, created in thought and filtered out in words.