The power that words have over our lives
February 18, 2015
Words have such power.
Wordsmiths know that.
Words can spring from such surprising places.
And, in these times of high technology, words can so quickly zip around the world.
Semi-dozing – or at least being semi-inattentive – through the evening network television news, we suddenly became aware of one anchor’s use of a word we were not sure we had ever heard.
Or had we?
Was it a word our high school English teacher tried to familiarize us with as she attempted to drill into us the need, the purposefulness of building a vocabulary?
Or, were we thinking of another word?
Were we just confused?
After all, we are just a relatively few thousand ticks of the clock, a few X’d-off days on the calendar from being an octogenarian.
So some fogginess on our part is understandable.
Please say it is.
Anyway, the network anchor had used the word conflate.
Which meant, he was saying, he was fuzzy, confused on some events he had reported on some years back.
His comments whipsawed around the nation, and indeed surely around much of the world, and criticism crushed and crashed down upon his talking head. Might eventually end his career.
Right now, he is in time out.
What it also did was send throngs to dictionaries, online and in print, trying to find out what in Hades conflate means.
So words can come at us in surprising moments and from surprising places.
Not too many days after we were either reminded of or introduced to conflate, another unfamiliar word came along via television.
This time from a sports reporter.
He was talking about how a superstar golfer was off his game.
Said the superstar golfer surely was suffering from yips.
Just the sound and the spelling of the word make me nervous.
Not being much of a golfer, we know we’ve never crossed paths with yips.
We would have remembered if we had.
No conflation there.
Hadn’t the foggiest notion what yips meant until we looked it up.
But we like to think positive. At least we now know what yips is and maybe someday we will use the word in a sentence or paragraph or short story or novel. Just like our beloved high school English teacher pushed us to do with each word we learned.
Like others, we’ve seen the power, the impact words have.
We think now of a politician we once knew who was a master of words and of the King’s English.
Time after time, we saw and heard him successfully persuade and convince on matters of great import and complexity and divisiveness.
Did it with words.
Did it because he knew words, knew their meanings and nuances. Had command of them.
Knew their power, impact, force.
So much so that we came to the conclusion that he could tell someone to go to Hell – which he would not do – and make them look forward to the trip.
Now that’s word power.
My word, almost gives me the yips just thinking about it.
Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author.
Please click the book cover image to read more about the poignant and touching short story collection of Roger Summers, Heart Songs From A Washboard Road.