Chapter 26: Words matter

Words. Words are thrown out of mouths too carelessly by the ones who disregard them. Words are never just words. Words form language. Words build meaning. Words create images. Words evoke feelings. Words can hurt, words can heal. Words decipher the world that we experience.

“Words matter!” – an admonition my mind got branded with. Underestimating the significance of words is a fallacy I have previously succumbed to as well.

It was my ex who lectured me about the importance of one’s word choice. During our relationship, my ex constantly cavilled about my poor, incorrect, and imprecise language. I hated him for being such a sworn grammar crusader, especially since he had the worst timing for voicing his criticism. I would excitedly tell him about my day, for example, about the praises I received at work, but instead of sharing my enthusiasm with me, he would kill the vibe by reprimanding my language mistakes. His words still echo in my head today. I distinctly remember the tone of his voice scolding me: “Words matter!”

Although I hated my ex for his ill-timed lecturing and his emotional disconnectedness, he was right about one thing. Words do matter. Pursuing creative writing as a more serious hobby, I started paying more attention towards my choice of words. I carefully phrase my sentences and I deliberately pick my words considering the meaning and effect I wish to convey. Nowadays, I would totally share my ex’s fascination with language.

Words are so beautiful. I mean, we use and rely on words every day for describing all that we know and all that we do. Without words, the world that we live in could not be rendered very graspable. It is through words that our experience gains meaning.  

Words work their charm in various way. They unfurl emotions and stir us up, some of them more so than others. Each word has its own temper it releases upon us.

‘Bridge’, for example, is a word stinging in my chest since it reminds me of a past heartache, an engineer who cared more for bridges than he cared for me. On the other hand, I am moved to tears by the word ‘doll house’ because I remember my doll house that dad had handcrafted for me, and he must have sweat days build it in such a meticulous manner (it featured electric lights in every room, a balcony, a stair case, and timber framing on the house front).

These two words may evoke a less emotional, rather neutral reaction in you. That is because the temperament of any word is predefined by what you associate with it and what it embodies for you specifically.

Beside swaying our emotions, words have the power to surround us with vivid airs. One single word can be enough to awaken a lush ambience. Just take the word ‘home’, for instance. ‘Home’ may stand as four plain letters on paper, but these four letters are tightly connected to a whole album of pictures in your head. Bit by bit, you retrieve all that ‘home’ means to you until a complete semantic scenery has emerged from where one word stood alone on paper before.

Finally, words cast their spell on us through storytelling. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful way in which words reveal their magical powers. An outside spectator could say that a story represents no more than words strung together like beads on a thread. However, in truth, the audience on the inside, the ears listening to the story, are flown into unknown worlds. Out of a simple chain of words emerges new worlds that may be exotic, mysterious, even cruel, or inconceivable. The words of a story create an experience that we live without living it, and this experience is always eye-opening.

Words. Words are never just words. Words build worlds as they ship meaning, ignite emotions, and sketch the images in our head.

This is why words matter.

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