on the topic of words matter

C.D. Bales: Tell her you were afraid of words.
Chris: What?
C.D. Bales: Words.
Chris: Because I was afraid of worms, Roxanne! Worms!


my college roommate used to be fond of saying, “stop. think. speak.” i’ve always thought that was brilliant advice, but as with all of us there were countable times when he didn’t follow his own. when my kids began finding their own voice and experimenting with wit and clever tongue, i lent them advice of my own, “tact, timing, and taste. you need at least 2 out of 3.” truthfully, as i’ve wondered over the years, if we all follow both pieces to the letter, how much talking would any of us ever do?

when i was around 17 or 18, sometime during the mesozoic era as it feels to me now, i was honored with a scholarship to attend the dale carnegie course in effective speaking and human relations. we met every saturday for weeks and it helped shape what i was to learn, how i was to learn, and taught me the brilliance of precision vocabulary. of course, since i was just a teen, that enlightenment transformed into arrogance and i merely persisted as an idiot for the next decade. some say i remain so today.

i love words and i love reading and listening to what others do with them. still, i’m reminded every day that a perfunctory usage of the vernacular is preferred, if not expected; as i prefer not to be relegated as some pedantic elitist… roger that. gotcha. word to your mother. but be careful, ambiguity, confusion, and misinterpretation are just around the corner.

Marty: Whoa. This is heavy.
Doc Brown: There’s that word again. “Heavy.” Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?

~Back to the Future

recently on linkedin one person posted an open letter to facebook’s founder and a lot of comments flooded in. one of the more flaming ones stated, among other things, that linkedin was not a social network. the poster said it twice and used all caps both times. i happened to disagree by posting the definition of ‘social network’ according to the oracle known as google: “a dedicated website or other application that enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc.” for my effort or sin another poster called me ‘catty’ and i don’t think she meant catlike.

say what you mean and mean what you say. the cat-lady was concise and she clearly meant what she said to me. and here we come to my main point – along with her reprimand, she said this:”Sheldon, his point is that this is for professional networking and Facebook is for personal networking. (Friends and family). Pretty sure you knew what he meant.” emphasis mine.

i thought i did. twice make a claim and use all caps to do it and i’ll presume you chose your words intentionally. she interpreted something else.

how can we debate and discuss important topics… societal, economic, business, environmental… if we don’t use words that convey precisely what we mean? or, interpret someone’s words in a way we want them to mean? bill clinton did it – “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” the murderer jared loughner once asked his congresswoman victim, “If words could not be understood, then what does government mean?” good question from an insane mind.

we’re hearing and using words such as transparency, metadata, global warming, global climate change, and we’re debating the use of ‘illegal’ when discussing immigration. we’re expanding (and contracting) our media via open letters and 140 characters. i have guys on my team using the word ‘forklift’ when talking about software replacement – wth?

yes, words matter. ambiguity didn’t get us into space but it has gotten us into war. stop, think, and speak. mean what you say, say what you think and listen to what comes back.

or this is what you can expect….

what day is it?


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