Words Speak Gently

By Samir Shukla

Words matter. They have long lasting effects when spoken or delivered in a persuasive manner. A few unfortunate words spoken during the heat of an argument can fester for years in someone's mind, sometimes rearing their ugly heads years later as stored anger.

I've often wondered about misunderstandings that may have occurred through the centuries via language barriers and miscommunications. Here's a possible scenario going back, say a few centuries. A couple of travelers stop by to ask for directions in a strange land, unknowingly offend the natives and wind up starting a feud, or worse, a war. Slangs and unfamiliar cultural terms make the matters worse as their subtleties get lost in translation.

Rewording something also makes it politically or socially viable. Global warming has become climate change. Estate taxes have become death taxes. An infant cow is veal. No one wants to buy “death" insurance; hence “life" insurance is the palatable moniker.

Our current president is not exactly a man of fluid words. He is not well read, by his own account, and loves communicating in short, simple blurbs and catchphrases. It works for him. He has found a way to connect with his supporters in a manner that make them even more supportive. He denied being a politician when he made his run for president and touted himself as an outsider, but has turned out to be a formidable politician. Words on Twitter are his communication modus operandi.

Words and the power of language can change the world, sometimes in a despicable manner, other times for the collective good. They can inspire, disturb, amaze or teach.

A picture tells a thousand tales, ah, but words can inspire countless readers or listeners. No one quotes a picture. Just think of folk tales passed down through generations. They create images of places and people that are left to the imagination of the listener. Think about all the notable humans of the past, evil or good. They understood the power of persuasion via language. Think about all the social media imagery that is floated daily, but it is still the words spoken that lead to inspiration or impeachment inquiries.

The current impeachment inquiry rests on a few words spoken by President Trump during a phone call. Their interpretation guides this inquiry and further divides the nation into political camps. That is the power of words.

I offer some personal wisdom, with due respect to Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak persuasively and carry a big dictionary."


Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com