An Unappreciated Word

Favourite words typically gain fame through their poetic rhythm (iridescent and magnanimous) or rich symbolism (serendipity and ethereal). They tend to be flashy words. Words that get you funny looks when used in casual conversation.

But there is a word that does more in one syllable than these show-offs do in four. This.

To appreciate ‘this’, you need to also consider its ugly cousin ‘that’. Both are demonstrative pronouns. Pronouns in the sense they identify an object (such as ‘it’, ‘she’, ‘I’, ‘you’), and demonstrative because they locate that object in space.

So what’s the difference? Consider these two sentences:

‘What do you think of that?’
‘What do you think of this?’

The first sentence is impersonal and detached. It’s a disinterested museum-goer gesturing to an exhibit, ‘What do you think of that?’.

The second sentence is intimate and collaborative. It’s a carpenter carefully revealing an unfinished woodwork, ‘What do you think of this?’.

This invites you to lean forward. That asks you to stand back. This is shared and refined together. That is removed and static.

Using more this and less that is a good way to instil compassion and connection in otherwise distant digital communication.

It’s surprising the difference one word can make.