When you have a message, sometimes you can be so anxious to deliver it that you say the first thing that pops into your head. English is such a versatile language that is seems a shame to waste it. And yes, we do waste it…
I was on a website once where a wordsmith asked “Why be dull, boring, pedantic, common, regular, everyday, jejune, ordinary, pedestrian, banal, and unremarkable?” And I found myself agreeing with him! All those words express subtly different variations on the same basic idea – each one has specificity for a particular circumstance.
English has the largest vocabulary of any language – it’s a bastard language – derived from when the Gauls, Saxons, and Normans decided to take up residence together and they created this polylingual stew. No other language contains the precision or versatility of English. It absorbs loanwords and borrowings from any and all languages.
As an example, I defy you to tell me the origin of the word window. Spanish = ventana; Croatian = prozor; French = fenêtre; Galician = ventá; Icelandic = gluggi; Italian = finestra. Give up? It’s Old Norse combining the words vindr (wind) auga (eye) to make vindauga, which happily joined the language in the 13th century as the word-of-choice for an opening in a wall, that wasn’t a doorway, and was used for looking outside a structure. Spanish gave us vent and ventillation from their word; French and Italian gave us defenestration for “throwing something out of a window”; but it was the Norse people, with their high stone towers at the harbour mouth, and lookouts watching for the masts of invading sailing ships, that gave us the wind-eye.
There is no other language where you can convey such subtlety or incredible exactitude. Read some Shakespeare sometime and see how he used twin thoughts to express things; saying the same thing twice in a row – once in highly sophisticated language and once in common tongue so that both the educated and the uneducated could understand his intent.
After the murder is done, MacBeth says:
“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, (Turn the sea red), making the green one red. (Turning the sea red)”
So learn from this great Master of English literature; make your point more than once, and in different ways to reach the broadest audience possible. Everything you write, every way you communicate deserves a second thought. Your first thought isn’t likely to be your best!
Occasionally I come across a short film that really captures my imagination and transforms the way I spend the rest of my day… This holiday season, think about how you use words to express yourself to your audience, and then use the next 5 minutes and 55 seconds of your time to invest in watching this short film. I promise you’ll be glad you did!
The Story of a Sign <== Watch the video
Co-Founder at Folwd
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