Mind Your Language

Language, according to the first definition given by the free edition of the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary online, is “the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other.” In other words, the way we communicate with one another. It’s also a series of sounds, pieced together at random, or so it seems to me, that allow the interchanging of ideas and emotions afore mentioned. Language, without a doubt, is a phenomon. And although sometimes limited, like when we acutely want to describe what we are feeling and words are scarce, it is a marvellous thing that I take the pleasure of basking in regularly. I am certainly not the first, nor the last, who feels so strongly about language.

Some words and their sounds suit their meaning perfectly. For me, for instance, the word imp, is the precise combination of sound and meaning. It’s fun to say, it’s playful, sounds a bit naughty, and is the exact way I would describe a being up to whimsical or prankish mischief. There are many words like this, a list so long I could probably create a blog based on my favourites.

Another wonderful aspect of language is its immense variation. Not only in the way that diverse languages, that sound and are written in completley different symbols, exist, but, in some ways, and more interestingly, in the same language itself. As someone who tries very hard to speak grammatically correct (and who doesn’t always succeed), these variations used to cause me some stress. Regional varities of language, naturally, use some words, even if they are synonyms, more that others. In some places, those synonyms don’t even exist. The Canadian word, toque, comes to mind. What a delightful word for a warm hat that covers your little ears from the bitter Canadian winter winds! How could other English speaking places not have this word? I mean, a beanie for a toque… come on! How could these words even compete? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that one word was not more correct that the other, like grammar. A heirarchy of words, let’s say.

And then I started writing and spending time with people who speak all sorts of different ways and speak all sorts of Englishs and Spanishs (I speak Spanish, too, yes!) and I fell in love. I fell in love with variety. I fell in love with learning different ways of commicating and felt a stupid amount of gratification because I was adding words and sounds to my repetoire of self-expression.

The idea of an epicentre of language is dying. We are globalized. We have technology. Where you live, believe it or not, is not the bellybutton of planet Earth. There are a million bellybuttons. And each one has a world to discover, a series of slang to analyze in order to understand the way culture manifests itself through words in that place, everywhere, you can learn. So, don’t limit yourself! Learn a new language, or don’t. But, please, for the love of the phenomen of the way we communicate, don’t think that your way of speaking is the most correct, that your preference in words are kings and the other’s, peons… open your mind to the other, just a wee bit. You’ll be astonished at how much you’ll learn.

Note: In my experience, this way of thinking is applicable to other elements in life. Double whammy!

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