Why words matter

One of the key differences between humans and other animals on this planet is the ability to use language, spoken and written, to articulate our thoughts and ideas.

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Nowadays we may text, whatsapp, email, message on Facebook, talk on skype, facetime etc etc but it is all just different ways of using the same words! Increasingly we use more images and short videos but even those are funnier and more fun when they come with a pithy caption or some statement.

Words are powerful. Language matters. What we say is shaped by our thoughts, ideas, attitudes, perceptions, reactions. In turn, what we say can shape our own behavior and actions and also influence that of others.

We need to articulate what we think and feel and want to do or want to happen. We need to respond to those who say things or do things that we agree with and support or oppose, object to or resent. We need to stand up for what we believe in and for this we need words. The right words– which define concepts, which name people and thoughts and deeds for what they are or lead us into awareness of what they ought to be.

We can use or mis-use words, un-knowingly or otherwise !

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On an average we use around 15,000 words every DAY ! That is a LOT of words !! and this is only the spoken words. Add our whatsapps and emails and FB etc and we could easily be doubling that.

It is fascinating to realize that in English, every book you will ever read is basically a remix of the basic 26 alphabets. Wow….that is an overwhelming thought..

All of us live in a society and we need to have our point of view heard. Our opinion shapes our politics and that of the world around us. Our voices are strengthened by the power of the right word. Language enriches and shapes our discourse. Language can be used to powerfully interpret laws and policies and judgments but it can also be used to hide, obfuscate and render them weak. The mass media, currently not quite the free and strong fourth pillar of a democracy, is increasingly being taken over by corporate ownership and owes its perspective to the mandates of its political powers.

It is even more important for us as individuals to use the amazing power each one of us has, to use it for saying what we believe needs to be heard. The truth is the truth even if only one person is speaking it. Dr Martin Luther King had said the greatest tragedy is the silence of good men. And women.

So, paradoxically, the easiest thing to do and sometimes the most difficult thing to do is simply to just SPEAK UP.

When any one of us speaks up, it amplifies the voices of all those affected. When any one of us opposes a sexist and offensive post on a Whatsapp group, it will make 10 others think twice before they share it on. When any one of us posts a strong gender sensitive, affirming message on social media, it can get a few people thinking about things differently.

So keep reading and wait for the next post which will be on sexism and misogyny and how words can hurt or heal.

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