About every year or so, I type something that isn’t poetry or a bad hard sf story. Well, here’s one. About a week ago, my friend asked my why I use particular words when I do, which I will copy pasta in a moment. I am not very good at dissecting my own thoughts and am worse at talking about myself, but I think I did a decent enough job to ask you psychotic fucks who visit my page to help me elaborate:
he asked “I‘m taking interest in the power of language. Each word carries a definition, but I’m under the impression that some words carry a very specific emotion. I have been playing with putting myself into emotional states on command lately, and this leads me to why I’m posting on your timeline!
You are a poet, and so you use words precisely. 1) Why do you use words at the precise moment that you do? Aaaand 2) which words or groupings of words carry emotional states that you get really passionate about?
Let’s have some fun shall we! “
This was my response, and I certainly hope you lot have things to add:
Ahoy! I’ve had some stuff come up, so I hope this hasn’t taken too long! In regards to your questions on word choice, I’m not sure exactly how to tackle that in that the two, for me at least, are linked. As an example of word choice that I use with respect to emotion and placement, here is something I encountered a while ago:
I was hired to write an article on electronic waste management. I used the word “pertinent” in reference to something that I don’t recall. I think it was a statement about how to handle disposal in a more sustainable way in future endeavors. My consignor decided that his clientele might not know what that word meant, so he changed it to “needed”. I was not all that concerned with my words being changed, but my meaning was changed, and that was not ok. We settled on changing the word to “required”, since the words, which essentially mean the same thing, have very different weight and connotation.
I would have to say that that is one of my largest deciding factors on which words to use and when. As an aside, it is very evident in this paragraph that I have a personal affinity for alliterations. Axl always appreciates and adores alliterations, after all. “Needed” is used so much that it is background noise in conversation. It’s soft, and was worthless in the statement that “pertinent” resided in. “Required” has a bit more girth. Conversely, if I were to say to my roommate, “it is absolutely required that we reassess how much fridge and freezer space is allotted to your 3 unopened boxes of frozen fish and lemons stored in ziplocs”, I am not really going to make any ground, as this is a very formal, cold, and almost robotic way to say that. It would, in that context and setting, be much more efficient and effective to say, “Yo, we need to divide our fridge and freezer space a bit more evenly”
The flow of ideas conveyed through a statement is also directly linked to word choice and presentation. Saying something clunky doesn’t work, even if your words and logic are true. As referenced earlier, I like alliterations. Many people do, I find. But the reason is not because they are cool (well, kind of it is, but you know what I mean), but because they sound “nice”. Picking words that go well together helps solidify your statement, particularly if it is not an idea you have rehearsed previously.
Let us compare the way that a scientific article and a play are written. A scientific article is written devoid of all emotion and only states facts and assessments as sentences. You could reduce most scientific articles into a series of bullet points. A play, on the other hand, uses scenes, characters, plot, etc as a tool to get you to follow a certain emotional path. In the end, if the writers of both did their job correctly, you would have an opened and potentially changed opinion of X, but they two pieces of text get you there entirely differently.
When we look at Shakespear particularly, and other writers who liked sonnets, there is an almost alternating balance between “hard” and “soft” sounding words. Not in the context of what they mean, but in how it literally sounds. This creates almost a bouncing, symphonic sound when read aloud. Some horror or “darker” writers will sometimes use entirely soft or hard sounding words for dialogue for a particular character, as harder sounds come out jagged and help us feel uneasy or distrusting of a villain. Likewise, the continuous use of soft words makes us feel sympathy, warmth, safe… and it’s very disturbing to read a supposed villain using that softer, inviting language.
We must also be aware that words are tools. A sentence can be a full idea, but usually you need a few or a paragraph to complete a thought. Words can be used to convey an idea by themselves, such as “Stop” or “No”, but these often only work in a specific context, like someone doing something that would illicit you saying “Stop”. If you were by yourself in public, and just yelled “No!” people would have no idea wtf you were going on about. Although I do use individual words on purpose, it is generally true that I am not using a specific word; but rather, I am crafting a sentence and that particular word needs to be there. You can build a car with 4 different size wheels, but it would probably not be that good of an idea. You can do a lot of overhauling to the vehicle to make those wheels and tires sit level and function, but it would be a lot easier to just use appropriate wheels.
A certain someone we both know felt extremely distraught after ending his relationship with a certain sportsball team. It was his decision, and the sportsball was an obvious dead end. During the time leading up to terminating the sportsball, he was looking forward to it and all that jazz. Once he did it, on his own volition, he became very depressed, felt like he let his team down, his family down, and worst of all, himself. It was his fucking decision to quit in the first place.
He kept saying he felt like a failure for quitting. I reminded him that he didn’t quit, he finished. He finished sportsball. Never heard another word about him being depressed about it, and he has gone on to keep some of his better sportsball friendships.
Let us compare the statements “I feel good” and “I don’t feel bad”. Excluding the whole “your subconscious doesn’t hold onto negatives” bit, we can, in general, say these two statements essentially mean the same thing, but we both know how much positive self-talk can help. Very rarely has shitting on a negative thought done all that much, but hyping up a positive thought is quite effective. I wish I knew more on this subject, but I think you can infer where I’m going with this. Further, to say that you “don’t feel bad” implies that you feel something other than bad, which there are many feelings that aren’t “bad”. Some of them are even negative. In contrast, if you say that you “feel good”, it is very direct and not subject to interpretation.
Sure I missed something and left some areas unfinished, but I hope this helps! I look forward to seeing how your use of words influences your emotional manipulation.
As an aside, as I was typing this, I got into a really cute conversation regarding the use of not words in place of words serving to do nothing but degrade the language and romanticize idiocy. The person in favor of tolerating stupid because “you knew what they meant” got quite emotional, insulting, defensive, deflective, and went so far as to actively lie about what I said (in text, so easily he could have fact checked) and accused me of being prejudice and oppressive for expecting people to use an actual word over some syllable salad nonsense. This person had the potential to maybe illustrate their point, but instead chose an emotional temper tantrum. As a result, their argument lost all meaning, since they were using the incorrect words to express it. If you want to get your point across, blatantly showing your own hypocrisy doesn’t help. We can learn from this person’s error by remembering that calm and collected word choice can get your point across, even to people who don’t agree with it, because you are stating a series of facts and ideas, whereas attempting to force emotions down someone’s throat leaves no room for dialogue and growth.