Words Matter

Over the years I have noticed a distinct shift in how we communicate with one another. I’m not referring to the infiltration of email, text messaging, video chats, blogs, vlogs, skype, zoom, videoconferencing, etc.  It’s the words we’re using in our communication, whether face to face or while hiding behind our computer screens that have become the point of concern. I have lost count of the number of heartbreaking stories I’ve heard from friends and colleagues replaying conversations and sharing messages they have received that were hurtful, insensitive, disrespectful and downright shocking. 

I was recently on the receiving end of such an experience that left me reeling. While the comments weren’t said to me directly, they were relayed to me and all I kept thinking was ‘words matter’.   Did you know the word, word – can be described as a verb?  Meaning, the word is what we choose to say or write. Word can also be a noun.  Meaning it is a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing used with others to form a sentence. So, if words can be used as a verb or a noun this means that words – all words are tools that we use with intention and with meaning. 

This is why words matter. We can control what we say and what we mean.  Don’t believe me? Let me draw your attention to two words in particular – the shortest word ever written using all five of the main vowels – A E I O U (I intentionally left out ‘Y’ because it is sometimey) and the longest word ever documented.  According to dictionary.com, the shortest word using all five vowels is ‘eunoia’.  For all the etymologists and spelling bee aficionados out there, the word ‘eunoia’ is Greek in origin and is defined as good will or in its literal translation, beautiful thinking.  I believe this is no coincidence. We are all beautiful creatures and were made for good.  I want you to always remember eunoia and its power. I want you to remember that with five vowels and one consonant you have been described as possessing a good spirit. This is not a coincidence. It’s not ironic that the most powerful word in the dictionary is the smallest.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make the biggest impact.

Now, if eunoia is the smallest word what is the longest? There are a lot of perspectives about this but in my research, the same word came up over and over again – pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.  Say that ten times fast.  It turns out that pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis is a noun – a person, place or thing, and is a medical diagnosis for a lung disease contracted from breathing silica particles.  It sounds scary and it is. But I want us all to understand that between eunoia and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis are a whole lot of words that we can use to express ourselves. But what I really want you to understand as you cultivate new relationships with words, is their meaning, what they are trying to convey, what they can do, how they make you feel, and how will they make others feel.  Remember, the shortest word in the dictionary describes us as beautiful and the longest will kill us. 

So the next time you are angry, remember, words matter. When you are happy, words matter. When you are sad, words matter. When you are frustrated, words matter.

Words matter.

Denise Herd