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Words More Powerful Than We Think English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1710 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Evaluate the extent to which the characteristics Sartre claims for words affect – negatively or positively – different Areas of Knowledge.

As a defination, “Word is a unit of language which has meaning and is used with others to form sentences, promises, comands and messages” (Oxford Dicxtionary).

Words are an important part of both the history of our species as well as our knowledge of it. Lacking in many natural protective adaptations, we rely on the ability to communicate information between our peers and from one generation to the next. There is hardly any doubt that words are extremly powerful tools, and words have destroyed enough cities, lives, and reputations to prove their potential treachery.

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Words, language, are the strongest weapon if used properly since they have the power to influence, manipulate & control people and situation situations.Words are very powerful, and sometimes the words we use offend people. Freedom of speech is highly valued but what happens when your freedom becomes hurtful or disrespectful to someone else? There are so many different kinds of people and different things that offend each person. In this day where we are more inclined to say whatever we want, we see more and more offense being taken to the words that get said. It’s hard to understand why certain words can be insulting to someone when it may not seem that way to you. We have to ask ourselves, why do we care what other people say and should we censor everything that goes into the public just so people don’t get offended?

Apparently they are only words but some believe the school-yard taunt: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” are wrong and it is true that words can hurt you in the workplace.Now these are not the caustic ones spoken (or received) full with sarcasm, irritation, anger or frustration, carrying an emotional punch. I’m talking about simple, everyday, normal word choices. These words, like black ice, are not an obvious danger at first glance. But, they can impact your results. So, user-beware. Words create various impressions, images and expectations. They build many psychological connections. They influence and effect how we think. Since thoughts determine actions, there’s a powerful connection between the words we use and the results we get. Think about these two words: spend and invest. Would you like your bank to spend your money or invest it? Since spending implies the money is gone, you probably want a bank that invests. Now apply these same words to corporate budgets and see how that influences thinking. Early in my career, I saw budgets as allocated company money I had permission to spend. And I did spend it. I never thought of budgets as investing in the company’s future until I was given profit and loss accountability for a new department and discovered my flawed thinking. I learned that in order to grow the department, I needed to budget with an investment mentality. Shifting words shifted my thinking and my results.

Now lets look at a simple basic example, try these words: problem and challenge. Would you rather a boss see your mistake as a problem or as a challenge? It’s more than semantics. Problems are fixed; challenges are met. Different words evoke different feelings. I have a more positive frame of mind meeting a challenge than fixing a problem. I realized the words I use to think and talk about my workload, my goals, my projects and the people I worked with influenced my thoughts and actions about them. So, I changed my words. If I say I work “for” someone I have a different vision about my work-life than if I work “with” them; same with my staff working with, not for me. Poorly chosen words can kill enthusiasm, impact self-esteem, lower expectations and hold people back. Well chosen ones can motivate, offer hope, create vision, impact thinking and alter results. I learned in twenty years in management my words have power over my thoughts and actions. They also impact and influence people I speak them to. In order to be winning at working, learn to harness your word power to work for, not against you; select words that create a visual of the desired outcome; and choose each word as if it mattered.

Now lets look at a possibility where we can somehow show the importance of words among audiences and different groups of people with various ethnical and cultural backgrounds.First, let us examine the ways in which words can have an impact. Each word has two definitions, the denotative and the connotative. The denotative meaning is basically the dictionary meaning, the one that almost anyone can understand who speaks or desires to speak the language.

For example, take the word “chair”. It has a denotative meaning: a piece of furniture designed for one person to sit upon. Anybody can point at such a piece of furniture and the audience will respond with “chair” (or whatever word means “a piece of furniture designed for one person to sit upon” in their language). It is this denotative meaning students learn in foreign language classes so they will know the word “chaise” means “chair” in French.

However, of greater importance, particularly in advertising, is the connotative definition, the definition each individual conjures up in rher mind in response to hearing or reading the word. That definition can be denotative in effect, but strictly individual. For example, someone hearing the word chair will rarely think “a piece of furniture designed for one person to sit upon.” Instead they will imagine what they consider a chair. It could be a desk chair, a Queen Anne wing chair, a dining room chair, or whatever image appears before the mind’s eye representing to that person a “chair”. This is not a specific image common to all, but a general concept dependent on the individual. This is why people use modifiers like adjectives and adverbs: they narrow the general concept to one specific to the speaker’s intent. Thus, when the speaker has an image of a wing chair, rhe adds the modifier “wing”. This prevents the audience thinking of a desk chair.

Thus the connotative definition of a word can be denotative in effect. However, of far more importance is that the connotative meaning of a word can have a strong emotional content. In other words, the audience can respond emotionally rather than intellectually to hearing or reading a word.

Why is this difference between the denotative and connotative definitions of words of such importance? It is because the greatest impact of words comes from using the connotative meanings to affect the audience’s emotional response. One reason for this is that you cannot argue away emotions because they do not respond to logic. Thus if you can make your audience agree with your point of view on an emotional level, your competition’s logical arguments won’t sway them about why they shouldn’t feel that way.

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An example that just about everybody can relate to: you’re in love; he-she-it is the most wonderful, perfect person in the world, flawless, faultless (“love is blind” is not only a cliche, it is a truism). Then he-she-it dumps you; tears, wailing, depression, etc., ensues. Your friends gather around and tell you that he-she-it is a jerk, a poltroon, not worth the tears, that he-she-it does not deserve the trauma through which you are putting yourself. You nod, agree, then you burst into tears anew, exclaiming “but I can’t help it, this is how I feel.” All the logical arguments in the world about why you shouldn’t feel bad about being dumped have no effect on your emotions. That’s how you feel.

That you cannot argue away emotions is only one of the reasons that connotations have impact. Another is that abstract words are almost entirely defined by their connotations. Abstract words such as truth, beauty, and justice mean what the individual feels they mean. There is no referent rhe can point to as a concrete example. Thus, abstractions affect most people emotionally. If, therefore, you can make a discussion of abstractions emotional by personalizing or anthropomorphizing them, they can have a greater impact. Moliere used this idea in his play TARTUFFE. He personalized religious hypocrisy, the cloaking of vice in a mantle of virtue, in the character of Tartuffe, a quite unpleasant person. Thus, if you don’t like Tartuffe, an attitude difficult to avoid, you won’t like what he stands for.

Another element of words that’s important is that there are concrete and fuzzy words. Concrete words are those that have definite referents. That is, you can point at an example of what you mean by that word. For example, when you say the word “chair,” you can point at the concrete item, a chair, to clarify your meaning to your listener. Concrete words have definite denotative meanings, and often have weak emotional connotations. Fuzzy words are those that have no concrete referents, for which there is no object that can be pointed at to clarify what the speaker means. Fuzzy words can mean whatever you think they mean, and thus can mean different things to different people. For example, one fuzzy word is “beauty.” Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, is dependent on culture, and changes from time to time and person to person. Other fuzzy words include “justice,” which can mean anything from equality before the law to the vendetta, and “truth,” which depends on how you view the world, what you know (or think you know), what others tell you, etc., etc., ad nauseam. The thing that is clear is that fuzzy words are virtually all connotation, with their denotative meanings dependent on who is defining them. For example, Samuel Johnson, who wrote one of the first dictionaries in 1755, “defined a patron as ‘one who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.


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