They say that language shapes our view of the world: if we use sexist and bigoted language, it is difficult to avoid becoming sexist bigots and if we don’t have the words for a concept, we find it hard to understand.
Certainly my own experience of learning a second language revealed a different personality: I was free to say things I could never have said in my native English because the words and the grammar permitted it and because I came fresh to the new language with the opinions and ideas of an adult but with no personal attachment or aversion to the words.
But that suggests that we are moulded by our language. It’s possible,too, to think that we are in control, and have power to use language to communicate exactly who we are, like Humpty Dumpty when he told Alice that when he used a word “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
I’m not entirely sure which side of the argument I agree with: whether the words we use define us and shape us, or whether they reveal who we are.
Over the years, I have had to write in many different styles and voices for different projects in different genres – from advertising copy to Health and Beauty journalism to technical manuals to children’s fiction to traditional sci fi…
When I write poetry, I try and choose the very best words – and put them in the best order – but I’m fairly sure that when I speak and write without preparation and without heavy revision there are a few words and expressions that I use again and again, which identify who I am.
I’ve been wondering whether there’s some software out there that would crawl through the email sent box or the archive of a blog – places where most of us are probably writing naturally and without too much conscious editing – and produce a personal vocabulary list.
I’m pretty sure that if I did that on this blog, after the grammar words had been stripped out one of the most frequently used words would be “glorious”. A quick search suggests it appears in over 50 of the posts here, with “glory” in another dozen or so.
As I said, I’m not really sure whether word choice comes from within – do I use such extremely positive words because I am an extremely positive person? – or whether the choices work back to mould our personalities – has my optimism grown from the use of positive words in the same way that an upright and confident posture creates confidence?
I don’t know the answer. I just know that I can’t post photos like these and not say they are glorious.
So, as Humpty Dumpty also said, “There’s glory for you.”