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The Magic of Words

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I have started today with a picture of a sign. In a few words it has to convey a message. It can’t go into too much detail, it just assumes you will understand that refreshments are sold and so too is compost; you aren’t expected to consume them both together! The sign leaves something to the imagination and common sense. It gets it’s message across successfully, it’s a farm and it’s open to the public and it describes what they sell and when.

The words we use, both spoken and written do say a lot about us. I heard the word robust used  a lot a while ago, in the phrase ‘robust response’. I typed those words into Google to see what it came up with and the phrase has been used a lot by politicians, journalists and the police. The words and phrases that we use give a lot away about us because we pick up words and phrases from each other; they are contagious. There is currently an inquiry into the relationship between the press, politicians and the police in the UK. Do the words they commonly use tell us anything about the relationship between them and how much time they have spent in each others company?

There are many terms to describe the way people communicate, some are derived from George Orwell’s book such as Admin-Speak. People in certain professions or from certain walks of life tend to share the common use of certain words and phrases. I often take a liking to certain words and phrases and sometimes a distinct dislike to words that are spoken affectedly. I once took a dislike to the word ‘bye’, short for goodbye, just because I heard it spoken affectedly, simply because it was thought to be more ‘middle class’. There are lots of other words and phrases that people use. ‘See you later’ is the British version of ‘au revoir’ and an expression I don’t much like. The working class term is ta-ra in Britain and I use that in response to ‘bye’ quite often. I was once amused when I said ‘bye’ and a very middle class doctor replied with ‘ta-ra’!

It isn’t just in the spoken language that we give a lot away about ourselves, but in the written use of language. I read a well written review about a smart phone this morning. It used words like beautiful, amazing, gotten and kinda. Yes, the writer was American! Can you guess male or female from this sentence? ‘This phone is nearly instant – it’s amazing and the photos look beautiful.’  Probably not, but he used phrases that came from space technology and that would probably have given away that he was more likely to be male. The blog also mentioned all the technical features, but more importantly left out the more feminine attributes of the phone. It is more difficult to tell a persons sex from their written words these days though or even their nationality; but their social connections do impact the way they communicate.

Words are part of our culture and so important to us and they are something that we share. Phrases like ‘have a nice day’ and ‘thank you for sharing‘ are clichés, as the proof reader thingy will remind me; but they are popular clichés.  I quite like some clichés and I like unusual, but effective phrases. The term ‘obscene amounts of money’ used by Richard Gere in the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ is a term I like. I often use terms like, ‘every little helps‘ in a different context to the advertising use. My use of a Zillion Ideas and counting is a cliché, but amusing and so memorable.

You might like to think about the words that you use and what they say about you and perhaps listen carefully for words and phrases that different people have in common. I hope you have enjoyed today’s post and you can find more to read on the home page.

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