Language is a curious thing

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One should always know if it is you or everyone being spoken to. Isn’t language a curious thing? I got myself in trouble the other day by using “you” when I should have used “one” or perhaps “me”. Yet how many of us do that? In fact how often do we get misunderstood on texts, on social media or even in person.

I have so often been misunderstood that it may be an idea if I include a rider on all my messages, “the content of this message is open to misinterpretation.” One thing I have noticed happening more and more on social media is grammatical miscommunication. Missing commas and spelling mistakes are responsible for a lot of unnecessary anger and miscommunication. I am not the worlds best speller, and grammar has always been a mystery to me. But I have a basic grasp, enough to know the difference between there, they’re, and their, it’s and its, led and lead, lose and loose, who’s and whose, and lots of others. It’s when words like these are used wrongly, that sentences get confusing.

As for punctuation well that is vital, life saving you might say. After all punctuation saves lives: “Let’s eat grandma!” Would be horrendous.

Whereas to say: “Let’s eat, grandma!” Is a pleasant invitation. That little comma is so important to the meaning of the sentence.

I have written before, about the way we can misunderstand what people mean, when they say you are “hot.” Perhaps deliberately misunderstand, in some cases. There are so many words that applies to. Especially now, even saying something is, “sick” can have different meanings, or “cool”. What about saying you “feel” something, that has changed its meaning since I was a child. We live in a confusing world in which it’s easy to be misunderstood. Not just across generations, but within generations. Even words that you might think we would have a shared meaning for; we don’t. Think of, “social” that could mean, a group, being friendly, the benefit system, and a lot of other variations. Then what about “pain”, you’re a pain, I’m in pain, I feel pain in my heart, the pain is excruciating, that’s painful, tell me where the pain is, he’s such a pain, etc. Think about “disability”, there’s a word dripping with loads of meaning. To some it means limitation, to others a chance to break through those limitations, to others it means malingering, to others destroyed lives, to others it just means a wheelchair, to some it conjures up particular illnesses or conditions, to others it just brings an image of a blue badge. Words have so many meanings, to so many people.

Our experience of life and the people we meet, shape our expectations of words. Not just our education. If you have direct experience of something; you see it differently. It’s interesting how films and dramas often change people’s perspectives on issues. We sometimes need to get inside someone else’s head, or walk in their shoes to appreciate their suffering or need. That’s not true of everyone. Some are more naturally empathic than others.

Language can separate us, and cause problems, because good communication is vital. Understanding each other is so important. The more we see another person as alien, different or the enemy. The easier it is to discount them, ignore them, and mistreat them. If we don’t directly mistreat them, then we can easily allow it to happen. We must learn about each other, communicate well with each other and try to understand each other. Otherwise we are bound to have friction, difficulty and fights.

Language then, is a curious thing, but also a vitally important thing. We should be careful how we use it. Words are powerful, communication is important. We need to use it wisely so that we learn about and stay on good terms with each other.

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