I’ve been thinking about our language and how it shapes us. This is not a new area of interest for me. I was a journalism major in college. I studied and practiced writing so that I could communicate succinctly, conveying the facts and making my words give a clear, unbiased picture.
But when people talk about feelings, how they perceive themselves or others, what is true becomes a subjective matter. This is the use of language that can make a difference in how one sees the world.
Our everyday language today has been compromised so that it rarely presents a declarative sentence. My kids and their friends use language peppered with the word “like.” I am constantly asking if what their talking about was truly “like a house* (*substitute any noun)” or if it was actually a “house. *” I often wonder whether the American language can survive this onslaught of “like.”
As an artist, I find that I often use words that minimize the strength of my statements. The use of modifiers in my speech can change an achievement into less than it is. If I say, “I have only completed one painting,” I have diminished my accomplishment by the use of the word “only.” If I simply said, “I have completed one painting,” it is a report of fact, without making it bigger or smaller. There are plenty of words in our vernacular that reduce the power of what we are saying: kind of, actually, really, just, to name a few. Not only have I minimized my accomplishment to someone else, I have diluted it for myself. Speaking the words, I send myself a message that I start to believe. So I try to make distinctions in the language I use.
Do you notice the impact of language that lessens one’s achievement?
On a personal note, I’d like to wish my sister, Davina Brown, a happy birthday and wonderful year, fitting for such a terrific person.
This entry is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Sylvia Garnice Friedland, who died on this date in 1972. I miss her still.