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Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Words Don’t Mean Anything

“The words we speak to each other are not empty. Speech is an action. It fills the silence, fills in the blanks, and connects the lines between thoughts and responses.”

So starts a post by Jane Devlin at

This posting of Jane’s has made me think long and hard about words and how we use them.

The more powerful the word, the more people try to use it to make themselves and their lives more dramatic. But in all this hyperbole, these words have been rendered as powerless as Samson with a buzz cut.

Love. What a person feels when they see their new baby… not when they see a cute pair of shoes.

Hate. Kenya, post election 2007, as one tribe murdered their neighbors of another tribe with stones and knives… not what one feels when the traffic light turns red.

Hero. The soldier who took the fire so his team mates could escape… not the millionaire football player who spends a few days at a kid’s camp.

Devastation. Port au Prince, Haiti on 12 Jan 2010, 6pm… not what a living room looks like after a 5 year olds birthday party.

How can a society understand the depth of an event or a feeling if the words needed to explain it have been applied to candy bars and a bad hair cut? How can your spouse or children know what you really mean with you love them and you love Candice Olsen?


  1. Very thought-provoking post. What do you think the answer is? should we try to reclaim the original meaning of the words, or come up with new ones?

  2. I like your definitions. I agree with them all.

  3. so well said. it's so true. my kids mock it but when they use the word "hate" i've always responded with, "hate is a very strong word." my hope is that they will think about what they are saying and the impact of it.

    thanks for this and for stopping by my place for the POTW.


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