Words. Individually they may carry a message, but only when combined in such a manner so as to convey more complex thoughts, do they have the power to truly change the world. If we had to rely on single word communication, we most likely would not have advanced beyond the stone age. For the peoples of that time, survival was paramount. Any form of verbal communication longer than a single word would likely culminate in the utterer’s untimely demise. “Pardon me Dug, but I believe that’s a saber tooth tiger creeping up behind you” would be a polite way of warning a friend of danger, but “Run!!” would get the job done much more efficiently.
Inarguably, the discovery of fire and invention of the wheel were milestones in our evolution, but both would have fallen by the wayside were it not for the ability to effectively pass that knowledge from generation to generation. Language. Necessary, but at times confusing. And the most baffling of all is the English language. Words spelled alike, with multiple meanings, words with the same sound, spelled differently, context, dialect, body language, all combine to create a mixed up messed up way of communicating. Why is it that way? I don’t know, but if I had to guess, it would be that English is made up of several different languages, bits and pieces of each, grabbing words from even more languages, balling it all up into what must be a nightmare for anyone not born to it. But surely if we speak slowly enough and enunciate well, anyone should be able to understand us.
Even the way we see words and phrases can totally change their meaning. If a van pulled up next to you while stopped at a light, with printing on the side that proclaimed “Bob’s Blind Cleaning” would it not be logical to think “How good of a job could he possibly do? And why is he out driving around anyway?” If the sign above the front door of the store you just passed were to say “M&M Repair, Mike & Mike”, should you not jot down the phone number for when you get to the bottom of the bag? Surely there will be some broken ones down there, and either Mike should be able to help you.
The worst offender, in my opinion, is the news media, particularly when it comes to headlines. In an effort to cram as much meaning into as few words as possible, and put it before the public ahead their competition, they throw common sense to the wind, leaving us to ponder their intent. Some prime examples might be: “Republicans Grill IRS Chief Over Lost Emails” Ouch! I had no idea that emails were even flammable! Or: “Girl Hit by Car In Hospital” Ouch again! It must have made a mess of the waiting room. And last, but certainly not least: “Uranus ‘Opens & Closes’, Scientists Say Planet Releases Solar Wind Every Day” Just about anyone could have a field day with that gem!
Ambiguous, confusing, frustrating, constantly evolving, it’s a wonder that it works at all, but work it does. And unless and until, something else comes along as an alternative, it’s what we have. I for one, intend to use it to full advantage. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve reached the bottom of the bag, and find myself in need of a repairman. Either Mike should do. 😊