More Than a Word

"Words mean things!"

A common retort from many a frustrated, self-proclaimed grammar nazi (though I've no clue why anyone would proclaim herself a nazi of anything).

And they do, of course. Everyone knows this. Many people with strong command of grammar, syntax, and word etymology use this ability as a weapon against people who are either less able or who don't care. We create a system of class based on whether a person uses words the way someone hundreds of years ago decided they should be used.

The thing is, words AND their definitions are not static, no matter how much we want them to be. As a child, I was told "ain't" ain't a word because it ain't in the dictionary. I laughed 10 years later when it was added. 15 years ago, the word "friend" wouldn't be used as a verb, yet in the age of digital, social media, we don't blink twice before announcing the fact that we "friended" someone (I didn't even get a red line under that when I typed it!)

As culture changes - as languages blend - as dialects develop, the meanings of words and how those words are used change. NOT ONLY THAT, words are merely symbols to express thoughts. The end is the communication, the words are the means. More important than the words used is the agreement between the communicating parties on what those words mean.

Instead of creating more division with our words and how we use them, let's be more communicative. As a person with strong command of words and traditional uses of them, I am often tempted to correct a person's usage of a word in conversation even if I know what thought the person was trying to convey. After all, words mean things, right? 

Words only mean what we tell them to mean. They are our slaves, not our masters. It's okay to love words. I do. I love language and I am intentional about being as syntactically, grammatically, and etymologically correct as possible because that's me. But any and ALL of that should take a back seat to communication. What we experience in conversation is much more than a string of words.