Words? What do they mean? Do they mean the same for you and me?


We are all artists. We paint with words.

We start as babies with the spoken word and learn the rudiments of language.

As children we learn the letters and conventions of grammar, we memorise the various punctuation and put them together into the patterns that communicate.

Each word is a symbol. It is no more than an abstract idea.

We each live in our own personal universe and have to hope that the contents of that universe, and consequently the symbols we apply to that content, bear resemblance to the feelings, moods, colours and forms that reside in the universes of everyone else.

How can we be sure?

When I talk of sadness it is of a mood within myself. I must assume you attach the same emotion to that word. Every sadness is different. We apply our empathy.

English is a good language to have as it is such a mongrel of a language. We have purloined words from every culture round the globe and brought them into play. It is rich with great variety. There are many different words for the same thing. When I write I am able to choose the word with the correct nuance and intonation. It gives me scope and choice.

By combining these symbols and arranging them I am able to describe the full gamut of my universe. I am able to combine the symbols as one would combine colours from a pallet, to create hues of emotion, description and imagination. They communicate and so must mean that our universes (created by the range of our senses and operations of our brain) are similar. When I speak of red you can picture that in your head.

That is remarkable.

Yet I must always remember that symbols are not the real thing; they are not the experience. Our communication must, at best, be partial. The world’s we see and the minds we inhabit are unique. We are all so much more that the words we use.

But through writing, using these symbols, we not only see ourselves more vividly but also glimpse the truths of others like us.

Communication is good. Let us hope that we will always share our worlds. You are always welcome in mine!

15 thoughts on “Words? What do they mean? Do they mean the same for you and me?

  1. I find it difficult to craft intonations and hues of emotion and deep thought. I try, and sometimes I can find that place where the words are. Mostly, I have to make up words and lazily put down the word that is not quite right, lest I lose the moment. Great post. Thanks Opher.

    1. Thanks for that. It is great to get feedback. I know exactly what you mean (I think). Sometimes there is a word that is hanging there but won’t present itself. It is the right word and you know you know it but it will not pop into your head. I usually find that it arrives at some later point. It’s important to hang on to that moment – but you can always go back and edit it. All the best – Opher

  2. You are right there Opher: English is vocabulary-wise a most rich language. As opposed to the amount of that richness actually being used spoken and in daily life: It is bloody poor in that respective !

    1. Hi Matt – yes – spot on!! People are lazy with language! But then they usually don’t want anything with depth. Put some depth into something and it turns most people off.
      I haven’t forgotten about the radio on Bukowski. I’ll be sorting it soon. Cheers Opher

  3. This post was actually quite touching… I loved English is a good language to have as it is such a mongrel of a language. Isn’t THAT the truth! Except for the word LOVE. That’s a puzzlement, since other languages have so MANY words to describe the KIND of love you’re talking about. We just lump everything into one word and reduce the word to something so anemic in my opinion…

      1. Google makes it easier than having to thumb through a Roget’s Thesaurus, at least, although I don’t usually like to resort even to Google. It is always to jog the memory–not to find a formerly unknown word, which is almost always a mistake.

      2. How did we manage before Google? Or the internet? The world has opened up. Information is at your finger-tips, communication is there. The mobile phone makes it even harder to hide injustice. It will, hopefully, change the world for the better in the long run.

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