Celebrating East African Writing!
Sometimes it is harder to understand what is being said in the context of what you hear. Take, for example, When your girl(boy)friend says, “we need to talk.” Whereas the person may be talking about the need for a conversation you, on the other hand, may end up wondering why you are being dumped. It has a lot to do with many things but the main reason for this particular usage of those four words is the media. After watching so much TV and reading so much about how needing to talk translates into that particular situation there is no way, in your mind, that it could mean something different.
It is often said that 90% of what we communicate is actually passed using body language. However, how often do we sit back and think about what we are actually saying?
This week I challenged some writers to use the word paradigm without using the word shift; they couldn’t. That is just one example, the truth is we use our language in a very lazy way. When I say we I, very much, include myself in this category. We have been taught that words should be used in a particular order, and so we put them in that order, without ever challenging why that order is used in the first place.
Who said, for example, that winds should always be prevailing? Why can’t winds abound, commandeer, dominate, preponderate, reign, et cetera et cetera et cetara? And, when you think about it, how many people actually know the meaning of the word prevail?
When it comes to meaning of words there is the connotative meaning and the denotative meaning is the dictionary meaning, for example, a couple means two, a pair. Connotative meaning is the meaning that people have attached to a word over time, in this case a couple would mean a small, but not defined number. What has happened is, over time, more people are relying on the connotative meaning of words without paying the slightest attention to the denotative meaning. Then, when this happens someone comes up with a second level of connotation making the first connotative the denotative and erasing the original connotation altogether.
Slightly confusing huh?
Simply put, the English language is a thing of beauty, and even more so when you look with intent at the words you use. Slowly shred each sentence to bits letter for letter paying particular attention to phrases that you use because that is how they have been used all your life. What you will find is going to surprise you. Because, odds are, you don’t know the meaning of most of the words you use.
Michael Onsando is an observer, a reader, a thinker and a writer. He is fascinated by life, love and equality. He imagines a world where privilege doesn’t exist, might won’t always be right and common sense reigns supreme. Until then, he writes.