“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” – C.S. Lewis
A small tidbit about our family; the guy cousins were highly scrutinizing of our aunts’choice of spouses when we were younger. You wouldn’t even earn the title “uncle”until we deemed it appropriate. From pranks to insults (creative as pre-teens can be) we dished it all. So when we realized one of them was a career student, a super nerd, and the heaviest item he picked up was a book . . . it was on.
One day in our early teens we were accusing him of
using ostentatious words in his talks (and playing scrabble). In true sardonic form we mocked his nerdiness by saying “you only use big words to make people think you are smart.” His response was very charitable and rings in my ears to this day; “Words”, he started, “words have specific meaning and you have to use the correct word to communicate what you want others to receive. It’s not about being smart, it’s about helping others hear what you really mean when you speak.”
Hop forward a few years and you’ll find the reality of language has shaped my life more than many other realities. So let’s look at the inverse. The reason for this post is the fascinating trend in the English language for persons to formulate a new word or phrase that has no meaning but vanity or humor. A few examples from urban dictionary:
- On fleek – meaning something that is just PERFECT.
- Bae – Before anyone else. Likely referring to your significant other.
- Can’t even – when something happens that you can’t even handle it.
- Ratchet – something that is poor in taste or not classy.
- Swerve – denying, rejecting and non-subtly dodging a request.
- And the oh so famous YAAAS – an enthusiastic ‘yes’ however the amount of As in the middle determine your level of excitement.
Why are we seeking language that says something without actually saying what we mean? Why has texting surpassed the desire to hear someone’s voice? Why has the urban dictionary been recently gaining preference over Webster’s dictionary?
Quite frankly it’s because we are trying to swerve intimacy . . . . Echoing our first parent’s experience of shame, we are now afraid of people looking at us. Language has taken a character of not communicating what we truly desire to he heard, but instead points focus to the humor of the anti-words that have been formed.
And even though languages may evolve with the generations, there is one language that will never change.
“According to the prophetic texts, the human body speaks a ‘language’ of which it is not the author. Its author is man who, as male or female, as bridegroom or bride, correctly rereads the meaning of this ‘language.’”. . . . . “By the words of the new spouses, the ‘language of the body,’ reread in truth of its spousal meaning, constitutes the union-communion of persons.” TOB 105:2-3
One of the things that Bill Donaghy shared in our TOB 1 course was the meaning of sarcasm. The etymology literally means to separate flesh and instead of using the occasional sardonic (mocking) remark, we as persons have become a society of sarcasm . . . separation . . . ambiguity . . . anti-intimate.
This has become true in our spoken and unspoken language. In my experience I’ve learned that a lot of problems are the effect of either too little or miscommunication. We’ve become a people that function without intentions. This is true in business, politics, and most importantly . . . relationships.
“You can say that you always were honest, and your words were clear from the start. But it’s more than just words that got spoken . . . there was language of the heart . . . but you’re speaking an unspoken language I thought that you knew.” David Wilcox, Language of the Heart
This is one of my favorite themes in our Beloved Pope Saint’s writings, especially because the “Language of the Body” is the remedy for all of our aches and pains. The language of the body is the language of love. Making a gift of yourself for the good of another is the medicine to heal the wounds of sarcasm and separation we’ve all experienced.
Now I’m not advocating that you cease all joking or picking at your friends. But what I am advocating is we all need to do a better job of communicating in all conversations, verbal and non-verbal. Simple analogy, but if you didn’t know a country’s language and decided to live there, would you be able to communicate effectively? Most likely not. With this in mind, we need to be intentional about learning to speak the language of our bodies in truth.
Instead of using anti-words in jest when communicating serious realities, we need to re-learn the language of the true Word. God made man. Word made flesh. The language of “this is my body given for you.”
If we take the advice of the wise John Mayer and “say what you need to say”, we can continue on our journey to the promised land where there, and only there, will our communication be . . . on fleek . . .