Can Words Change Your View of the World?

Can wds change your view cropA March 10 article by Chris Gaylord in the Christian Science Monitor Weekly (On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a noun) caught my attention. Crediting the Internet with generating new words “at an unprecedented pace,” the article reports that about 14 words were added to the English language daily in 2013, thanks in large part to words invented and shared by Internet users, according to the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas.

So what about these new words? Are they “good jargon” – an insider language? Are they “bad jargon” – words unintelligible to just about everyone? Will they become a permanent part of the mainstream lexicon? And those are only the words shared primarily by Internet users.

Help is available in this area from BuzzFeed, who has created a style guide for what Gaylord calls the “Internet Age.” Knotty problems, such as whether one “de-friends,” or “unfriends,” along with explanations of “catfishing,” and “duckface” are to be found, he says.

How about words that have been around seemingly forever, but used by a very few until the issues to which they relate become the hot topics of the day. Take genetically modified (GM) crops, for example.

In a two-part series appearing in the March 23 and 29 issues of the East Oregonian, Harriet Isom refers to projections of the world’s increased need for food production, which has helped to spur research into the area of genetically modified organisms (GMO), “The world will definitely need more food. World food demand is expected to rise between 70 and 100 percent by mid-century…driven by a global population rising to 9 billion by 2050….”

With the significant worldwide controversy on the issue, it will be useful to understand terms like “transgenics,” and “cisgenics.”

Isom explains that new genome engineering tools mean that plants can be genetically modified without adding genes from other species, the process that has formed first generation GM crops. “Now they can rearrange genes from the same plant, a technique called cisgenics,” she added.

And then there are the made-up words, slang words, or insider words. Some know what they mean, others guess. Or not. Words like “spin fodder,” or “false equivalents.”

Finally, let’s think about expressions that have been around, and most people seem to have a meaning for them. Expressions like, “It is what it is,” or “Whatever…” (Note that the speaker’s tone of voice can change the meaning.)

Long-term, can expressions like these that have been used over time, change one’s view of the world, or of his or her place in it?  Can our words form the way we see the world? And in the larger picture, can new words serve to re-define the world as we see it? Let us hear what you think!

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Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, Toll-free at 888-634-4875 or email gail@gailtycer.com

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