Friday, June 16, 2006

Assaults on Words and Language

Barbara Brown Taylor, voted one of the greatest preachers in the English speaking world continues to marvel me with her insight and brilliance at the pulpit. In her book When God is Silent, she lamented about the deterioration of the use of words and language due primarily to 3 assaults.

#1 - Assault of consumerism
This refers to the way words have been forced to make promises that they cannot keep. Moreover, due to the rising aggressive ads, many words are chosen not for their truthfulness but for their seductiveness. For example, by naming the name of a high-rise apartment "Harbour View" even when the nearest beach is hundreds of miles away.

#2 - Assault of journalism
Even newspapers have contributed to the deterioration of the language of communication. The headlines of today can simply become rubbish tomorrow, as huge chunks of unread news gets thrown away because people simply have no time to read all of them. In essence, the word and language used has become cheap. Just look at how many credible news providers are there nowadays. Tabloids are among the biggest culprit to cheapen and mutilate the word.

#3 - Assault by the sheer proliferation of words
It is a growing trend that people see language and words as not as important as long as the message is transmitted across. People who do not know the right vocabulary wil create their own, often twisting and turning original words to say something they were not originally intended to say. SMS language is one contribution to the deterioration of the word. b4 replaces BEFORE. CU replaces SEE YOU. LUV is a short for LOVE. The list grows. The queer thing is that the speed of language and words proliferation has outgrown the human capacity to listen and process what was being said and heard. As a result, we become poor listeners. When that happens the whole communication chain disintegrates.

So what are we to do with the three assaults on words and languages?
I will venture to suggest that we should learn to cultivate silence. Turn off the radio. Take a walk in the park. Listen more. Be not anxious when there are no words to fill in a silent moment. Sometimes in life, what is needed is not another word, not another sentence, but simply to be a recipient. In communication, the language of no words is also a profound language of its own.


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