Communication has existed from the origins of man. He has always communicated in one form or another. The Modern Age, however, has heralded an overload of language building blocks: words. There are words for everything with new words being coined every day, and even old, established words are losing their constituent parts and becoming deformed abbreviations used and abused by the cellphone generation. Language is changing, and for many of us it is not for the better!
I intend to lay out three premises in this article: words used affect the communicator and the hearer alike, words define who and what we are, and lastly, words are a vital component in changing our behaviour and improving our lives.
Now, let me bamboozle you with a little technical jargon. A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an indirect object, a subject complement, an object complement, an appositive, an adjective or an adverb. But it is how we employ our nouns that affects not only how we perceive ourselves - but how others perceive us. Noun-abuse can win and lose you friends. I have studied the language of many people in ordinary situations, and it is amazing that there are so many indicators as to their own perception of self, the image they wish to portray to the world and even their attitude to their listener. In so many cases, it is the power of these words and the sentence construction used to employ them that causes a reaction in the listener, and even affects the attitude or mood of the speaker.
But words also define who we are. Certain jingoism, expletives, colloquialisms, abbreviations, word play and other ‘isms’ are peculiar to particular geographical areas. Within short distances the language employed can define an identity which is bound up in a place-specific way. It is because of this that we can be pigeon-holded, categorised, labelled and put on a mental shelf by our listeners. True freedom of expression lies in identifying these factors, and either ‘playing’ them up in a positive way, or leaving them behind for new word choices.
Lastly, you can change your life by your word choices. There are too many words in the english language which bear negative connotations. They are used in a derisive, insulting, demeaning manner, or employed to give one a sense of belonging to a social group. It is these words that can affect your mood, general temperament, attitude to others and even lifechoices. They will also cause people to react to your language in a certain way, which may adversely impact your life in subtle ways. In the end it will bring you to a place of lower self esteem. Positive language, and tapping into the power of Power words can change it for the better. Adapting your language patterns to make more use of words that paint a better picture of yourself, and your attitude to others will help you ACHIEVE and SUCCEED in life. Yes, attitudinal change must be a holistic exercise - but language is a necessary component of it.
Dr Andrew Felton runs the Official Word Project on OfficialWords.com , an on-line community-led dictionary website aiming to define, redefine, discover and rediscover words. Anyone can participate and submit their words with the aim of promoting an understanding of language and how it is used. The Official Word Project is also a social experiment with the aim of promoting positive attitudes to self and others.