Wordology

I’ve been listening to Regina Spektor’s Loveology on repeat today.

Porcupine-ology, antler-ology,
Car-ology, bus-ology,
Train-ology, plane-ology,
Mama-ology, papa-ology,
You-ology, me-ology, love-ology,
Kiss-ology, stay-ology, please-ology…

I’m sorry-ology,
Forgive me-ology,
Love-ology, love-ology…

I started thinking: what is the most powerful word in the English language? I mean, surely words have so much power - ask Plato, Ovid, Descartes, Marx. One word can represent so much to so many people. Words are dangerous and words can be our salvation. And words… their millions of different meanings that aren’t defined in a dictionary, that grow with a person and all they absorb from the culture around them… that’s what makes the difference between simply studying and truly understanding a language. That’s what I love about words, their very fluid nature.

How about faith? What does it mean? Religion? Taking chances? Trust? Leap of faith. Blind faith. It’s such a charged word - powerful for being misunderstood as much as understood.

What about please? Please stay, please don’t go, please help. Please.

Love? Surely one of the most loaded words in our vocabulary. We squeal I love you! from excitement to near strangers but hesitate at using the word with a partner. Because it means more then just affection, it means commitment. But that’s not in the dictionary definition at all.

Peace? If you’re living somewhere where war is a constant reality, surely peace is powerful. I mean, Augustus gained control of the entire Roman Empire with the words pax Romana - the Roman peace.

Or is war more powerful? Hate? Fear? Does power come from consequence? How about terrorism? That’s a word our media is happy to throw around in the last couple of decades, completely changing the meaning of words like insurgent and democracy.

Hate is constantly perpetrated by words. The first step to racism, homophobia, sexism and any bigotry is the creation of a word that separates one group from another. Just think about the power behind those words. Can any of them be matched by peace or equality or acceptance?

When I got my first tattoo I chose a word, because, for me, words are eternal. You can’t tire of a word because it’s meaning to you is always changing. Because it represents so much. I can think of at least five different things that the word imagine means to me right now, and a handful of others that it’s meant to me in the past.

I asked for a thesaurus for my birthday one year. I used to pick a word at random and just write about it. In poetry form, usually. Eventually, I would find a way to bring my exploration of the word back to the way I was feeling that day. It wasn’t hard, because it’s all in how you interpret it.

So, I ask you, what do you think is the most powerful word in the English language?

7 Comments

  • By Faebala, November 17, 2009 @ 6:26 am

    1) I love that song too. It’s one of my favorites from her.

    2) I think Love is a beautifully powerful word, as I’m sure you’re not surprised. You know me and my ridiculous obsession with love. :) But I definitely agree, it all depends on the context of the word - the emotion that’s evoked behind it Love can also be an uninspiring word, depending on how it’s being said.

    Imagine is most definitely one of my top powerful words, along with Infinite (for reasons you know). “Inspire”, “Dream”, “Believe”, “Faith”… all great words, for me at least.

    And then there’s words like “denial”, that due to Delilah - will always evoke a feeling in me. That’s the beauty of words, like you said. And there’s all of those song quotes we love that, even when they’re only a two or three words long, can inspire a world of feeling.

    I’m rambling. But this was a good post that got me thinking, and also got me wanting to write, because of the mutual love for the beauty of words - in all their various shapes and sizes of meanings.

  • By Sebastian, November 17, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

    Is/be…!

  • By Lea, November 18, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

    I can’t pick!

  • By Shaun, November 19, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

    Honest answer? Cunt - simply for the way it divides people all over the English speaking world
    More thoughtful answer - Belief for most of the same reasons as faith excpet it comes without some of the more negative connotations

  • By Faebala, November 20, 2009 @ 3:51 am

    Okay, I just have to say, that I almost said the word “cunt” too - because it is probably my most hated word. And I’m not even a feminist. It just… makes me super, super angry when people use that word.

    But then I thought about it, and the word made me angry just thinking about it, so I decided not to say it. Haha.

  • By Shaun, November 20, 2009 @ 7:50 am

    So what word do you choose instead?
    Also, why does the word cunt make you angry? Ive never understood why its such a ‘bad’ word, Ive always assumed its because I was a guy…

  • By Faebala, November 20, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

    ^^ See first comment for my answers from earlier.

    And because the word cunt is super derogatory. There’s no alternative meaning to it, it’s just a nasty, harmful, word that completely belittles women by using it when referring to someone as a cunt. And like I said, I’m not even a feminist!

    If you’re talking about an actual physical cunt, then it doesn’t bother me as much. Although I prefer every other term before that one.

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