Our borrowed tools for communication are words

in Features

These are not my words, they don’t belong to me you see. They have been borrowed from a fountain source called language and they have all been used before by writers, poets, kings and vagabonds. I just string them together and write them down so that I can tell you a story in words that you can understand. If I weave them carefully and rhyme them they become poetry and the images they may conjure up should respond to a pleasing tempo in verse known as a poem’s meter.  

If I arrange them in a sinister way and use a fantasy to create a frightening or harrowing story I may scare you, but if I use them in a positive way to praise and uphold good and wholesome values, I can influence the way that you perceive them and you may think that they are uplifting and heartwarming. That is a positive way to use words. 

I can tap into your emotions with words that are not mine. I can craft them in such a unique way that will make you feel that they are my words.  Diplomats and politicians are supreme craftsmen with their words ambiguously designed to tell you what they want you to hear without alerting you to the deeper meaning of their words. Politicians sometimes conveniently forget to own up to words that they may have said previously and their defensive jargon conveniently and elegantly skirts around issues of truth – but these are not my words, although they point a finger, they are merely borrowed tools for our communication.  

If I choose words wrong you may feel insulted and you will accuse me of having written words that have offended you. Yet these are not my words, neither are they yours but we all use them to explain our feelings. We can use them, abuse them, confuse them and reintroduce them. Yes, every time we think, speak or write them, words are reintroduced into our language. Beware that we cannot unsay them or take them back with any degree of success, they will always come back to haunt us if we choose them wrongly at the point of saying them. 

We may strive to explain in a clear way what we mean to say, but we still don’t always manage to say what we mean. Yet because it matters how we say, or how we might not say words that need to be said, we are condemned to misunderstand each other in a human tower of Babel where, once our different languages, dialects, oratory skills, pride and beliefs are put into the societal melting pot, what will flow out of it is chaos. Chaos can’t be refined in the universal foundry even if it is poured into molds to contain it. Once it sets this is a hard metal that we can well do without. Universal misunderstanding thrives in our world. 

There is a beautiful word in music called harmony. It is a term used to describe how when the sounds of musical instruments or voices come together in a coherent way, the sound produced is pleasing to the ear. It is not dissonant, nor are the elements that make up the harmony fighting each other for musical relevance. If harmony was easily available from a fountain source like a ready-made language and we could borrow its elements to use in the same way that we use words, then like music, but in a wider more universal way, our lives would be infinitely the better for it.  

Wishful thinking? Yes and ‘you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one’ (John Lennon -‘Imagine’), the greatest peace anthem of them all. I hope that I have chosen good words to entertain you with this article. If I have achieved that then the credit is not mine because they are all borrowed tools of communication which I have woven into a cohesive pattern called writing. Now there’s a topic for another day. 


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