As I sat on the bus the other day I watched as a doddering old gentleman boarded and made his way painfully slowly to a seat. A stop later a gentleman of similar age got on and as he strode with long steps and in a neatly pressed trench-coat down the aisle, his grey hair slicked backed and shining in the sun the word that came to mind was ‘dapper’.
As I watched them, demurely peaking from behind my book, I couldn’t help but wonder about how a single word can change an image in our heads. If a place is ‘dusky’ or ‘dusty’ may not only affect my hay-fever but the time I had there. If a date is ‘dreamy’ or ‘dreary’ changes not only the outcome but the story I tell about it. If a person is described as ‘deviant’ or ‘devote’ will decide how I approach them when being introduced. Being called ‘darling’ or ‘dreadful’ may affect how I see myself and present who I am afterwards.
Words and their meaning create a filter through which we see the world and the people within it. But even though words are so powerful, very often we don’t take the time to consider which one we choose, we forget that we have thousands at our disposal. In the full Oxford English Dictionary there are more than 175,000 words, most we use, some we don’t and many have more than just one meaning. Interestingly enough while only a seventh of these words are verbs, a quarter are adjectives, this shows that we tend to describe more than we do.
As I debated and deliberated over words and what they mean and I decided to indulge, deviate from the words I always use and consider using ones that lie dormant in my vocabulary. As Rudyard Kipling so eloquently said:
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind