Tuesday, 20 November 2012
The Power of Words
Words have power.
Words can create beauty and they can destroy lives.
Words can heal a multitude of hurts and they can create a whole lot more.
“I’m sorry” or “I love you” in the right time and place can change the world for someone. So can “thief”, “cheat” or “sexual predator”.
Most creation myths begin with words causing the universe to come into being and the naming of all things. In Kabbalah, knowing and using the names of G!d gives you the power to overcome evil influences. In Egyptian Legend, Aset (Isis) gained power over Ra by tricking him into telling her his true name. In Folklore, there is many a tale about the power of true names - think of the story of Rumplestiltskin for example. Many a modern fantasy has had a side plot based around true names - not just of people, but of everything.
A newspaper headline can infer greatness or destroy a career. A human interest article can draw attention to something worthy but overlooked. A throwaway comment can ruin a public reputation.
There are people who spend their entire lives trying to justify other’s words with “what I think he really meant by that is” and lawyers who can play with words until not even the person who said it is really sure what they meant.
We know all of this. I’m sure nothing I’ve said so far is a surprise to anyone. But we have sayings like “it’s only words” and “sticks and stones” and “words are meaningless”.
Which is true? Are they both true? Is it a case of which words are used or overused?
NLP is based on the use of words and inflection on certain words. Positive affirmations uses the right words repeatedly to create change within yourself and your world. Bullying (especially cyber bullying) is the use of words to harm or belittle.
Is it the intent behind the words that gives them power?
Words change meanings. Not just over a long period of time either. I’ve had difficulty explaining to my seven year old daughter why the word “gay” means happy and joyful in the song she was singing, while my teenagers use it to describe something lame and stupid and others use it in place of homosexual. How can one little word mean so many different things? How do you explain this to a child who is just learning many of these words?
Dictionaries are no help. Dictionaries can give you the historical meaning of a word, it’s roots and etymology. They are also constantly changing to suit more modern and often colloquial usages. The Urban Dictionary can be added to by anyone who cares to do so.
So many words mean different things to different people. A witch is an ugly old hag, an evil sorceress and a practitioner of folk magic. All are correct, but very different. Your and you’re are used interchangeably (which is incorrect, but common). I like to describe this as the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit. There, their and they’re are more that get muddled. These are simple grammar rules that we should have learned early on in school. Why is it so hard to get these words right? The meanings of these words change depending on which one you use.
Knowing the power of words, many witches will tell you to take care with the way you word a spell or working. Clarity is important, so is the intent behind the words. But when you’re not in the midst of a working, words are still powerful and important. When you have worked with magic and have some experience, you come to learn that the things you say in any setting can be powerful. So why do so many throw words around like they mean nothing? Why is it so hard to have integrity? To say what you mean and mean what you say?