I’ve been thinking about my last post, and I discovered I have quite a bit more to say. Lucky you get another post about words, but this one is about the power, the significance of words.
I love reading classic literature. My brother got me a copy of Beowulf for Christmas, and I am one of the very, very few people in our family and our groups of friends who actually enjoys that book. For the most part. I take issue with how the monks copied it, but that is a different post. Anyhow. I love reading the descriptions, the conversations, the carefully chosen words. Writings back then and up until as recently as last century actually had meaning, well thought out purpose behind each and every word. The writers found creative ways to paint a picture of the scene. Nowadays, we get a description of a body of water on a sunny portrayed as
The bright sunlight bounced off the waves making it hard to tell what shade of blue it was.
Writers of old had a more poetic way of describing the scenario to where it might have read something more like
As the sunbeams danced across the lake, the color of the waves appeared to glisten as diamonds rather than the sapphire hues we had come to associate with the home of the nymphs.
There are many reasons why appreciation and quality of writing has gone so far downhill – school systems, technology, the general attitude of “I need it now, faster!” I think people have forgotten the power of the pen, the power of the written word.
This culture has also forgotten the power of words spoke. I try very hard to not throw out phrases such as “I promise,” “I swear,” or “I vow.” I like to honor my word, so when I say “I swear,” I try to the best of my ability to follow through with whatever it is I have sworn to do. Others do not have the same respect for themselves or for what they are saying. Promises are made and broken without second thought. Vows are sworn – often in a church or courthouse – and broken over time. People no longer think before they speak.
Between abbreviations and emojis, some people do not even know how to speak. When I was in third grade, for whatever reason, my entire class thought it would be fun to copy the dictionary. We were not being punished. Our teacher truly had no idea what to make of our goal, but she obviously did not try to stop us. By the end of the school year, Our class of 25 third-graders had several handwritten copies of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In high school, my class, much smaller, still had a fascination with words and dictionaries. We went through dictionaries when we finished our geometry homework and found words none of us had previously been able to define. The majority of our peers thought we were crazy for our habit of flipping through dictionaries, but we did not care. We also received higher scores on standardized testing throughout the years on reading comprehension because we could understand the entire sentences and were not just guessing.
Love and/or appreciation of words and the power they hold is now a foreign concept to many. How do we change that? Summarizing is a great skill, very appreciated in the workplace. This culture has the art of summarizing pretty well grasped. How do we re-embrace the skill of description, the ability to comprehend what writers of old were saying without a translator or cliff-notes?