Words Matter: a somewhat accurate history of the English language
(Speech No. 3)
In the beginning was the word.
More accurately, it all starts with the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. They are important. They are very important, because we sing many songs in their honour.
The alphabet started back in Egypt, some four thousand years ago. It wasn’t perfect but it was a leap forward. The Egyptian alphabet was small and didn’t contain all the consonants and vowels we have today, but it was the first step forward.
It is interesting to observe that we have come full circle as a human race. After four thousand years of human history, the Egyptian hieroglyphics have made their triumphant return. We just know them by a different name. We call them emoji’s.
A thousand years later, the Greeks added some more sounds and letters and the Romans did their thing. Finally, about fifteen hundred years ago, starting with Beowulf, Old English was born.
I warn you that Old English is not an easy read, and not very pretty to look it, but like our evolutionary ancestors, it unmistakably resembles the English language we use today.
The alphabet is the smallest particle of the English language. It is the atomic particle. The neutron and electron of our language.
Letters lead to words. Words lead to sentences. Sentences form paragraphs. Paragraphs form everything else we hold dear, and devour in our private hours.
They are the reason things get awfully complicated. They are the reason for the fall and rise of so many.
We admire and pour over volumes of writing, but we rarely stop and think about the meaning of the actual words. Our vocabulary remains stagnant and stuck at the grade eight level. Some of us just stop learning. We stop growing. We stop challenging ourselves.
We embrace and heavily rely on the F word.
We use it as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective and filler in almost every sentence.
Some of us have lost the respect and reverence for words.
We have become complacent in our relationship. We have neglected our beautiful lover. We have become seduced with all sorts of distractions that call to us with the voice of seductive sirens.
So, for the sake of clarity, happiness, and peace, we need to reawaken our love and reverence for words, once again.
With words, we dare to make sentences.
And all sentences must have a noun (person, place or thing), and a verb (the action or reaction to another person, place or thing).
Sentences are amazing because they have the power change lives.
I have a dream.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
When we take the time to express ourselves, we are ready to form paragraphs.
Paragraphs too can be burdensome, which is why they need an opening sentence.
So many people are afraid of writing and of putting their thoughts in paragraphs, because they do not appreciate the tremendous clarity and focus a good opening sentence can provide.
Clarity is important. Just check the news sometime.
Without focus, our lives grind to a halt, or never reach the heights we are capable or are born to achieve.
If you dare long enough, hard enough, and persistently enough to find solace and express yourself in paragraphs, you will make writing and speaking your mission.
It all begins with words.
It has always been about words.
It will always be about words.
To be great in big things, we need to become good in the little things.
Sometimes we try so hard to build a house in only one day or perhaps a weekend. We build without an architectural plan. We build without the proper words. We build out of order. We never finish. We begin something new, and we go to our grave with our poetry still in us.
So let’s get more familiar with words.
You cannot express yourself, if you don’t have the insight to say what you mean.
Let’s take the word depression as our example.
We have latched on to the word, and depend on it to both explain and account for all the struggles we see around us. All the struggles.
We don’t really choose the word when we speak. The word has chosen us, and in the end, no real human expression is accomplished. We become poor players, strutting our stuff upon the stage, and in the end, signify next to nothing.
You may be depressed.
But you may also be sad. Perhaps you are a bit melancholy. Experiencing a feeling of pensive sadness with no obvious cause. Maybe you are unhappy. Your thoughts being filled with gloom and a partial or total darkness. Perhaps you are in a state of woe or great distress. You may be in low spirits, but a nothing that a sweet cup of tea can’t solve. Maybe you have a heavy heart. Are experiencing despair. Are despondent. Desolate. Isolated. Alone. Hopeless. Or you are in a funk. Perhaps you will write a hit song because you have the blues.
Sadly, we do not choose our words. We let them choose us.
We live unnecessarily complicated, needlessly unrealized, often unclear lives, which can very much change at any time, if we begin and fall in love with words, just like we did when we were children.
Think back how excited we are to hear a child’s first words.
Let’s fall in love with words again.
Let’s renew our stale love affair.
Let’s begin to love again.